Gorillas Dismantle Snares

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Recently In Rwanda, four young mountain gorillas were seen disabling a poachers’ snare intended to kill gorillas and other animals. These gorillas sprung into action after the same snare killed an old gorilla from their troop.

Adult gorillas have been seen destroying snares and poaching traps in the past, but scientists have never seen this kind of activity in gorillas at such a young age. This sighting suggests not only unexpected cognitive skill but also a level of empathy for other animas. While the gorillas could choose to simply avoid the snare grounds, they instead decide to work together to disable them so that other gorillas and animals are not hurt and killed.

Within the world of primatologists and researchers, primate empathy has been a matter of discussion for years. These new findings suggest a level of empathy and social welfare amongst primates never before studied. The young gorillas dismantling the snares will most likely teach their offspring how to destroy traps as well. Primates, such as gorillas and chimpanzees, are known for teaching their young how to use different tools.

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“It’s just amazing”, says Dr. Patricia Wright, a Primatologist at Stony Brook University in New York with over 27 years anthropological experience. “One of the most extraordinary things that has just happened is that very young gorillas, that are just four years old, have started to take apart traps and snares so that poachers can’t catch gorillas.”

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Dr. Wright will be present at the 2014 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (WCFF) in New York the week of October 13-19. There she will speak with the audience after the screening of the IMAX film Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. She will be joined by fellow primatologist Dr. Birute’ Galdikas, traveling all the way from Borneo who will also speak with the audience after the screening of Born to Be Wild. Both Dr. Wright and Galdikas will be presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards at the WCFF Gala on Friday, October 17. They will be joined by Dr. Sylvia Earle, Nan Hauser and HRH Prince Khaled bin Sultan, all of whom are receiving awards for their life’s dedication to the protection of global biodiversity.

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The Cost of Plastic in the Oceans

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Estimates of the overall financial damage of plastics debris in the world’s oceans causing harm to marine ecosystems stands at $13 billion USD each year.

In the polar regions, scientists have recently found tiny pieces of plastic trapped in sea ice. Transported by ocean currents across great distances, these contaminated particles eventually become a source of chemicals in our food.

A large and unquantifiable amount of plastic waste enters the ocean from littering, poorly managed landfills, tourist activities and fisheries. Some of this material sinks to the ocean floor, while some floats and can travel over great distances on ocean currents—polluting shorelines and accumulating in massive mid-ocean gyres.

Communities of microbes have been discovered thriving on microplastics at multiple locations in the North Atlantic. This “plastisphere” can facilitate the transport of harmful microbes, pathogens and algal species. Microplastics have also been identified as a threat to larger organisms, such as the endangered northern right whale, which is potentially exposed to ingestion through filter-feeding.

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Good News for Okavango Delta

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GOOD NEWS!
Botswana’s Okavango Delta has become
the 1000th site inscribed on the World Heritage by UNESCO

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NO BIG OIL in Virunga

BIG WIN FOR WILDLIFE – NO OIL in VIRUNGA
at least for now

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British oil company Soco International has said it will suspend exploratory operations in Virunga National Park, home to half the world’s Critically Endangered mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) as well as thousands of other species. The announcement follows several years of campaigning from conservation groups, which argued that drilling could lead to severe environmental destruction in the UNESCO World Heritage site located in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC government granted the company permits to conduct exploratory operations for oil in the park in 2012. But while the operations were approved by the DRC government, they were condemned by the UN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and even the British government. A petition against oil drilling in the park was signed by over 750,000 people.

Established in 1925 largely to protect the mountain gorilla population, Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park. Mountain gorillas were discovered in 1902 making them one of the last big mammals described by scientists. Virunga is also home to okapi (Okapia johnstoni), another big mammal discovered in the first years of the 20th Century. In addition to gorillas and okapi, the park is also home to chimpanzees, lion, savannah elephants, forest elephants, eastern lowland gorillas, and several species of rare birds. With a wealth of habitats, including rainforest and cloud forest, it is considered one of the most biodiverse parks on the continent.

The announcement by Soco International doesn’t mean the fight over oil in Virunga is over. Currently, 80 percent of the park is covered by oil concessions, making it very possible another oil company will come in when Soco leaves.

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To see the full article published by Jeremy Hance visit:
http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0611-hance-soco-suspends-virunga.html

 

 

Sunder the elephant is FREE!

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After years of being chained and violently beaten, the fourteen-year-old elephant Sunder is finally safe in his new home at the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bangalore, India.

For six years, Sunder was chained and abused at the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur, India. In 2012, the Maharashtra Forest Department and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued orders to retire Sunder to a sanctuary. Sadly for Sunder, the orders were never carried out, and instead Maharashtra Member of the Legislative Assembly Vinay Kore, who had given the elephant as a “gift” to the temple, sent him to live in an old, dark poultry shed where until recently he has been chained and subjected to numerous beatings.

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An undercover investigation conducted by the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals India (PETA India) had resulted in footage of a mahout (handler) violently beating Sunder with a thick wooden pole. The video revealed a malnourished-looking Sunder, chained by two legs, writhing in pain and struggling to stand as the mahout strikes him repeatedly with the pole.

As a result if the investigation, “the Supreme Court of India passed a judgment in favour of PETA India by ordering the implementation of a 7 April 2014 Bombay High Court order to release the well-known and much-abused young elephant Sunder to an elephant care centre in Bangalore by no later than 15 June,” stated PETA India. “The Supreme Court also ordered that the Secretary, Revenue and Forests Department, Maharashtra State will be responsible for the implementation of its order and must strictly meet the deadline.”

This decision was supported by celebrities Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Celina Jaitly, Gulshan Grover and many others who took to Twitter, met with concerned government officials, and helped in other ways with the campaign for his release.

A few days ago, Sunder was freed and began the journey to his new home. “We are overjoyed to report that the much abused young elephant Sunder was placed on a truck by a team of experts who had travelled to Kolhapur to work with the Maharashtra Forest Department and is now being driven carefully and slowly to his new home as per the order of the Supreme Court of India,” said Peta India.

Despite the court’s decision, and the fact that Sunder was now free to be relocated, the cruel and vicious people who abused Sunder all those years did not let him begin his journey in peace. Even to the last moment, they tried to find ways to hurt the terrified elephant.

“The transition was not easy. This progress was made after a great deal of struggle, including dealing with sabotage by screaming men, near rioting, tires which were punctured with nails by those who wanted to keep Sunder in Kolhapur to endure a life of abuse and a mahout (elephant handler) who shouted the wrong commands in order to agitate Sunder. Even now, a motorcycle gang is following the truck, despite police protection. The police and Maharashtra Forest Department officials as well as the experts who travelled to Kolhapur to assist with Sunder’s move are travelling with Sunder,” said PETA India.

After all the turmoil getting Sunder away from his abusers, he is now peacefully residing at a 49.5-hectare forested area care centre for elephants. As soon as he has settled down and his serious leg wound caused by long-term painfully tight chaining has healed, he will join a herd of thirteen other elephants. The sanctuary is enclosed by fencing, which allows the elephants to roam freely and wade in the ponds and streams that spread out throughout the Bannerghatta Biological Park.

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Tree-hugging keeps Koalas cool

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Tree-hugging helps koalas beat Australia’s heat, research has found. By spreading their bodies out over lower branches koalas are able to absorb the cooler temperatures that occur inside trees and reduce their core temperature. This not only makes them more comfortable but also increases their chances of surviving the intense heatwaves that take place in Australia. Unlike other animals, koalas do not use hollows or dens for shelter but rather spend their time exposed to the sun.

“They’re just stuck out on the tree all the time so when hot weather comes they’re completely exposed to it,” Dr Michael Kearney from the University of Melbourne’s zoology department told Guardian Australia. “When a heatwave comes the most effective way for the koala to lose heat is through evaporation. They don’t sweat but they can pant and lick their fur.” However, in times of intense heat and low rainfall, koalas cannot maintain the evaporation rates needed and have to seek other ways to remain cool.

The scientists studied around 30 koalas on French Island, near Melbourne. At times of extreme heat they witnessed them lying flat out along the branches, which is an unusual stance for them.

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Thermal image of a koala hugging the cool lower limb of a tree, illustrating a posture typically observed during hot weather

“I sort of see it as, ‘Oh I’m so hot, I’m going to lie down’, but there’s more reason to it than that,” said Kearney, a co-author of the report. “The fur on their tummy is quite a lot thinner than the fur on their backs, so they’re pushing that fur and that part of their body as much against the tree as possible. “Any way that they can lose heat that doesn’t involve losing water is going to be a huge advantage to them. Dumping heat into the tree is one of those methods.”

The team fitted radio collars to the bears so they could track them during the day in both winter (June–August 2009) and summer (December–March 2010 and 2011). They then used thermal imaging technology to confirm and further examine their observations.

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