WWF is saving black rhinos by moving them

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Black rhino and calf in Africa

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Rhinos, one of the oldest groups of mammals, are virtually living fossils. They once roamed across Africa’s savannas and Asia’s tropical forests, but today, very few rhinos survive outside of national parks and reserves.

WWF has worked for decades to stop rhino poaching, increase rhino populations, and protect their vital habitats. By conserving land for rhinos, we also help protect other important wildlife that share rhino habitat, such as elephants.

Specifically, WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) in South Africa has been working with passion, commitment, and determination to ensure a brighter future for the critically endangered black rhino for more than a decade. BRREP works to grow black rhino numbers by creating new populations and provides equipment and training to rangers to monitor, manage, and protect rhinos.

How WWF safely moves rhinos to help the species thrive
Looking back over years of moving black rhinos to create new populations as part of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, it’s worth noting how capture and release techniques have improved. Check out how WWF safely and efficiently completes this essential conservation measure.

Originally posted 2017-12-14 13:00:00.

The Glorious Primitive Crane Fly

(Patagonia’s Untold Stories)

Scraping sand grains and pebbles for nutrients, it has wandered the river bed for ten months.  After hiding from predators under submerged rocks it is time to leave the safety of the river behind.

Primitive crane fly (A. gloriosus)  collection site. PHOTO BY R. ISAÍ MADRIZ

Among the rarest species of insects in the world, Araucoderus gloriosus belongs to one of four primitive crane fly species found in South America. Is its rarity a result of what is happening?

Its instincts drive it in search of entangled root mats of marginal vegetation. For that, it must cross a hazardous field of exposed cobblestone. Its body is being pulled against the moist rocks. The unfamiliar sensation of gravity is sobering.

Devoid of legs, it pulls its heavy body forward with its mandibles.

Dawn enshrouds the river bank with a dense mantle of fog. There, not too far from the river’s edge, partially compressed between two fist-sized rocks, the putrid pupal remains of another of its kind is being consumed by scuttle fly larvae; an ominous sign of what lies ahead.

The chaotic arrangement of the rocks and the impoverished diatom film covering them, laid evidence of a violent recent flood, a humbling reminder of the power of the elements.

If it is to survive, the larva must hurry. The morning sun’s rays will soon dissipate the fog, exposing the migrating larva to predators.

It has begun. Hungry ground-dwelling birds scout the surface, while other small passerine birds circle above looking for an easy meal. Deadly parasitic wasps are in search of prey; their young will consume their host from the inside out.

The fourth molt allowed the eyeless larva to develop light-metering primitive eyes, an elemental predatory avoidance tool.

Scanning Electron Micrograph of Primitive crane fly (A. gloriosus) larval head capsule. Photo by R. Isaí Madriz

Halfway from the marginal vegetation, it begins to burrow into the moist sand.

As I observe sitting motionless on top of a large rock I ask myself: Was the drastic behavior change triggered by the continuous sensation of morning rays? Is the larva aware of the constant danger from predators? Perhaps it senses imminent risk of desiccation.

As the day passes by I wait patiently. The night belongs to bizarre creatures. Found only in Patagonia, stoneflies over two inches in length are taking over the night. Emerging in mass, they invade the land in search of a safe place to complete their transformation to adulthood.

At last, the larva reached the entangled root mats of the marginal vegetation. It searches for a secure moist area to begin its transformation. Pupation is the most vulnerable stage in its life cycle.

Its larval skin has been shed. The thin and translucent pupal skin presents a unique view to its internal organs. Highly sensitive long hairs arranged in crucial areas of its body alert of changes in its surroundings.

Safe in the moist microhabitat, its clear skin darkens with the passing days. Within, its organs reorganize for the last time.

A few days pass by and the pupa’s skin is hardened, a promising indication of a successful metamorphosis

Primitive crane fly (A. gloriosus) pupa habitus ventral (left) and lateral (right)view. Illustration by R. Isaí Madriz

High above, recent snowfall failed to remain on the mountaintop. An unexpected flood engulfs the river bank, dislodging the pupa from its shelter. Trapped in the increasing current, the river gradient steepens, as whitewater fills the increasingly narrowing channel.

Unable to move its developing appendages, the pupa relies on buoyancy for survival. It must keep the two respiratory organs on its head above the water or it will drown.

Several hundred yards downstream, in a small foamy pool in the splash zone of a 20ft waterfall, a newly emerged adult male hangs on to the vertical side of a small rock, its discarded pupal skin floats among plant debris. With luck he will spread his wings for the first time.

Nearby, holding on to the exposed roots in the undercut riverbank, a female completes her metamorphosis. At the same time, hanging from the marginal vegetation, camouflaged by their exquisite coloration, males wait for receptive females to take flight.

The male at the base of the waterfall flies away in search of a warmer, drier place away from the cold mist. As I wade through the river, following the male’s path, I feel the soothing sensation of the sun warming my skin. The male’s adult body is being illuminated by the sun for the first time. Does he feel the same calming sensation as I do?

Its dull flight pattern and slow speed diversify, as the morning rays stimulate a graceful aerial dance revealed for the first time before my eyes. I stand motionless in the middle of the river, in awe. The exquisite wing pattern is complemented by an iridescent hue reflecting the sun’s rays. This fly is indeed glorious.

Stacked image of the Primitive crane fly (A. gloriosus) adult hanging from a Magellan’s beech (Nothofagus betuloides) branch. Photo by R. Isaí MadrizR. ISAÍ MADRIZ collecting A. gloriosus larvae. PHOTO BY Gregory R. Curler

In a blink of an eye the magic dissipates. The male is tackled out of the air and onto the overhanging vegetation by a dragonfly several times his size. The predator perches on a broad leaf a few feet away from where I stand. I watch in shock, as it slowly consumes the primitive crane fly, discarding the legs and wings as it gradually devours the thorax. Several thoughts run through my head: How does the fly process pain? Does he? What thoughts would be passing through the fly’s brain? Does he have any?

In the upcoming days little more is revealed of this species’ secretive adult behavior. The population size is a fraction compared to what it was two years prior. With adults becoming increasingly harder to find, their short adult life span and the ever-changing weather make the task at hand troublesome.

With the season passing, the adult population vanishes. It is cold, but the mountaintops have yet to retain any snowfall. Weather fluctuations turn what should be snow into rain, preventing accumulation of snow and consequently scouring the riverbed through the intensifying glacial melts that feed the river. Can this species survive the ongoing climatic challenges, or will it embrace the imminent fate of the bleeding glaciers that it fully depends on?

* The story above is an accurate assemblage of observed field events from 2013­–2018 complemented by a scientific investigation on the species depicted.

Follow Isaí Madriz on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Equipment used for this nine month project is courtesy of Fulbright, National Geographic, Iridium, Alpacka Raft, Aqua-BoundBoo Bicycles, Kokatat, Seal Line, Osprey, TentsilePatagonia, Voltaic & Jax Outdoor Gear.

Originally posted 2018-04-21 04:19:01.

Top 25 Arid Birds

Wild Bird Trust presents this week’s Top 25, “Arid Birds”. These birds face stressors such as aridity and heat but thrive nonetheless. Some birds made use of microclimates to escape the heat, using shade to keep cool. Others will dissipate the heat form their bodies by dilating blood vessels in their legs or by holding their wings away from their body. But heat is not the only challenge, deserts and semi deserts are by definition, dry. Some birds such as raptors and insectivores get sufficient moisture from their diets. But some need to drink, even daily, like the sandgrouse. The Namaqua Sandgrouse has a unique adaptation which allows the males to absorb water into their abdominal feathers and carry them back to their young. Here we present 25 of these amazing birds. Thank you to everyone who shared images with us this week, your efforts have brought the magical arid landscapes and their birds to life for all of us.

The Berthelot’s Pipit only occurs on the Canary Islands, off the coast of west Africa. Here they stay in semi-desert areas, like this one photographed in the dunes (Edwin Godinho)Male MacQueen’s Bustards maintain their breeding territories year by year and females like this one will nest nearby her mate’s territory (Dr. Malay Mandal)Like most desert dwelling birds, Crested Larks subsist mainly on invertebrates and seeds. These larks also need to drink from time to time and will travel to find water (Dhairya Jhaveri)Short-eared Owls inhabit a wide range of habitats including tundra, marshes and forests but they also do well in dry habitats like prairies and savanas (Harish Chopra)The Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark prefers dry, open habitats. This is a male, he has distinctive black markings, the female lacks these and is rather indistinct (Vijay Singh Chandel)The Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse can be found in the semi-deserts of India and the border of the Sahara desert. They drink daily during the cooler parts of the day, typically 2-3 hours after sunrise (Narahari Kanike)Dusky Grouse are closely associated with dry habitats with Douglas Firs. The Male has a red patch on the side of the neck, which he exposes during the breeding season by lifting the feathers (Tim Nicol)The Yellow-wattled Lapwing is found in the dry and open parts of India and surrounding countries. Interestingly Lapwings in the south are smaller than those in the north (Ajay Singh Rajawat)The Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill occurs in the savannas of southern Africa. In arid areas they are restricted to watercourses where there are trees. They need trees as they are cavity nesters, the females seals herself into a cavity while she lays eggs and raises the young, the male brings them food(Michal Richter)This dry, bare, rocky terrain is typical habitat for these Painted Sandgrouse (Kishore Reddy)Long-tailed Shrikes are highly opportunistic feeders, hence they use a number of different habitats, including semi deserts (Edwin Godinho)Grey Francolins are monogamous and the young will stay with the parents until the next breeding season. This francolin was photographed in Dubai by Mukund KumarLittle Terns are of conservation concern and are vulnerable to a multitude of predators such as gulls and foxes. Recently in Portugal, another predator was discovered, these Eurasian Stone Curlews were found predating a Little Tern nest (Edwin Godinho)Three-banded Coursers can be found in sandy clearings in the north of Africa and the open ground of woodlands in eastern and southern Africa (Sammy Mugo)The African Hoopoe, a sub-species of the Common Hoopoe, is found in dry wooded savannas. The name Hoopoe is derived from their call which is a low ‘hoo-poo’ sound (Michal Richter)This Greater Hoopoe-lark can be found in the Sahara as well as the deserts of the Arabian peninsula and India (Dr Malay Mandal)Isabelline Shrikes are typically found in semi-desert areas. They require habitat with much open ground as they spend most of their time foraging for insects on the ground (Gaurav Budhiraja)This beautiful bird is a Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, photographed in Spain by Carlo GallianiRufous-tailed Larks breed in open, sparsely vegetated areas. The nest is typically a scrape in the ground, surrounded with grass and twigs (Kishore Reddy)Sykes’s Nightjars prefer semi-desert and stony habitats, they are most active at night where they will fly over open areas and swamps foraging for flying insects (Vipul Trivedi)The Tawny Pipit inhabits dry, open areas where they run on the ground, pecking at prey (Anil Goyal)The Isabelline Wheatear breeds in central Asia and overwinters in south Asia and Africa. Some migrants over winter in starkly different habitats to their breeding range but these wheatears use open and arid habitats in both of their ranges (Ajay Singh Rajawat)A Desert Wheatear photographed in the grasslands of Rajasthan, India by Anil GoyalThe Indian Courser is a true Indian resident, it has never been recorded outside of the Indian Subcontinent (Gaurav Budhiraja)A Cream-coloured Courser photographed in Gujarat, India by Dr. Malay Mandal

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

Top 25 Birds Protected by the MBTA

Originally posted 2018-04-20 19:16:06.

Top 25 Birds of Europe

Wild Bird Trust presents the Top 25 Birds of Europe. Europe is a fairly species poor continent, with about 700 birds recorded. European bird populations are under severe threat from human development, particularly agriculture. A recent review found one third of all birds in Europe to be threatened. Even common birds like the European Turtle Dove has declined drastically, with their population dropping 90% since the 1980s. While overall Europe’s birds are in trouble,  some are bouncing back. Thanks to conservation efforts, birds like the Great Bustard and Common Cranes are recovering.

Here we present 25 of the birds that occur in Europe, we hope you enjoy our selection! Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the them for next week’s Top 25 contest.

The Eurasian Coot adapts well to eutrophic water bodies and man-made environments, as a result their population has expanded in Europe (Edwin Godinho)Willow grouse In the true Arctic will spend up to 17 hours of the day in their snow burrows (Judi Fenson)A juvenile Greater Flamingo photographed in Ankara, turkey by Zafer TekinThe Eurasian Blue Tit is a common garden bird, they especially favour gardens with bird feeders! (Giuliano Mandeli)The Eurasian Golden Oriole prefers woodland habitats, they are rarely found in areas without trees (Christian Bagnol)Over the last 60 years, the population density of Whinchats in western Europe has dropped by 50%, this is largely due to the intensification of agriculture (Edwin Godinho)A European Bee-eater snacking on a Painted Lady butterfly in Bulgaria (Terry Ayling)A Cattle Egret strides through the dewy grass in Italy (Giuliano Mandelli)A Northern Gannet breeding pair greeting one another in yorkshire. These pairs often stay together for multiple seasons, perhaps even for their whole life (Edwin Godinho)A Eurasian Hoopoe photographed in Camargue, France by Christian BagnolThe Chukar Partridge is native to eastern Europe and central Asia. There are also a number of introduced populations, in the USA, New Zealand and South Africa (Owen Deutsch)A European Roller in its breeding range in Northern Greece (Antonis Tsaknakis)The Glossy Ibis’s in Africa and Australia are resident but populations in Europe migrate to Asia for the winter (Christian Bagnol)Goldcrests eat tiny insects like springtails and aphids (Oana Badiu)An Osprey with a freshly caught fish in Sweden (Jorg Asmus)European Robins are common in sub-urban gardens. They have been known to follow gardeners digging, catching insects that are disturbed (John Parkinson)Sanderlings breed in the tundra, they breed either monogamously or polyandrously, with one female and two males (Brigette Petras)The Sardinian Warbler occurs widely in the Mediterranean countries of Europe, this one was photographed in Mesologgi, Greece by Antonis TsaknakisBreeding White Storks that return to the same nest site every year tend to have higher nest success. This is mainly because older, more experienced birds tend to be more faithful to nest sites (Christian Bagnol)global warming is changing the vegetation in the willow grouse arctic habitats. Woody shrubs are becoming more dominant and as the grouse rely on willow shrubs, this may result in the expansion of their range (Anthony Roberts)Eurasian Treecreepers forage ‘mouse-like’ on trees for insects (Antonis Tsaknakis)Eurasian Oystercatchers can die in large number in years of low productivity, this is exacerbated by commercial shell fisheries catching their prey (Suranjan Mukherjee)Common Sandpipers migrate between Eurasia and Africa, southern Asia and Australia, undertaking non-stop flights of up to 4000 km (Jorg Asmus)A Eurasian Siskin photographed in Ivalo, Finland (Samuel Bloch)Northern Long-eared Owls rely greatly on their hearing to hunt, they can catch prey in total darkness (Romain Bodereau)

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

Top 25: Birds of America

Originally posted 2018-06-08 19:24:20.

New species discovered in the Greater Mekong

The freshwater loach fish from Cambodia sports striking black and brown stripes on its elongated body. So far these fish have only been found in smaller streams and not in any larger mainstream rivers, where large hydropower dams and agricultural runoff can threaten wildlife.

Since 1997, more than 2,500 species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong region. It’s a positive sign of biodiversity in a region where wildlife remains under tremendous threat. Intense development—from mines to roads to dams—threatens the habitats so many species call home. Poaching for bushmeat and the illegal wildlife trade puts wildlife at dire risk. As a result, many species could be lost before they are even discovered.

WWF is working to stop the illegal wildlife trade by shutting down the biggest illegal markets in the Greater Mekong. Working with partners and across borders, WWF aims to significantly reduce illegal trade in key threatened species such as elephants, tigers and rhinos through legislation, transboundary cooperation and improved law enforcement. By safeguarding these species, we protect biodiversity and keep important natural landscapes intact.

Originally posted 2017-12-19 13:00:00.

Artificial nests bring new hope for vulnerable shy albatross

“Shy albatross lay a single egg in late September and those eggs have now hatched,” said Dr. Rachael Alderman, a biologist with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. “At this stage in the trial, the breeding success of pairs on artificial nests is 20% higher than those on natural nests. There are many more months ahead for all the chicks, and a lot can change, but so far it’s very promising.”

Endemic to Australia, shy albatross only nest on three islands off the coast of Tasmania—Albatross Island, Pedra Branca, and Mewstone. In some parts of the Albatross Island colony, birds struggle to find and keep sufficient nesting material, resulting in poor quality nests.

Conservation scientists and funding partners from the Tasmanian and Australian governments, WWF-Australia, WWF’s Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund, CSIRO Marine Climate Impact, and the Tasmanian Albatross Fund have worked together to place nests in areas where they were typically of lower quality. Recent monitoring shows that the birds are accepting the nests and personalizing them with mud and vegetation.

“Albatross Island gets hit with wild weather,” said Darren Grover, WWF-Australia’s head of living ecosystems who recently visited the project site. “Good quality nests keep eggs and chicks safe and sound. The artificial nests were all intact, but many of the natural nests were already starting to deteriorate. That’s not the best start in life for a chick.”

When the chicks are fully grown and about to fly from the island for the first time, scientists will attach tiny satellite trackers to them to capture the movements of their first few months at sea. This will provide crucial information about why fewer juveniles are surviving.

As the climate continues to change, scientists need to develop, test, and evaluate new approaches to protecting vulnerable species. This collaborative innovation is an encouraging step for the future of the shy albatross and can serve as a model for other wildlife recovery efforts.

“It’s fantastic to see this project come to fruition,” said Dr. Sally Box, Australia’s threatened species commissioner. “We all have a role to play in protecting our threatened species, and thanks to contributions by government, scientists, and non-government partners, we are starting to see some really positive outcomes for the shy albatross in Tasmania.”

Originally posted 2018-02-15 13:00:00.

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