Adopt an Animal - News

Beach Clean Up Results In First Hatchlings Of Turtles In Decades

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For the first time in decades, hatchlings from a vulnerable species of turtle have been seen on Mumbai beach that has been cleaned up by a massive operation staffed by volunteers. Recently approximately 80 Olive Ridley turtles found their way into the Arabian Sea from their nests on Versova beach. The hatchlings were protected from feral dogs and birds of prey by volunteers who stayed overnight to ensure they made it into the ocean.

A remarkable success story

Versova beach is a true success story and something the United Nations describes as “the world’s largest beach clean-up project”. Over the last couple of years, the beach has been transformed from a rubbish yard to an almost completely pristine piece of coastline. The man who led the charge is a lawyer named Afroz Shah. Mr Shah says he began to anticipate there would be turtle hatchlings a few months a go when farmers on the Southern part of the 3 kilometre beach said they saw turtles in the sand.

Something important was going to happen

Mr Shah says the minute he received that news he instantly knew something important was going to happen. Then some of his volunteers called to inform him that they had spotted dozens of baby Olive Ridley turtles hatching in their nests and he immediately contacted the forest department. Mr Shah then paid a visit to the beach with about 25 other volunteers and stood guard whilst the tiny turtles made their way slowly across the sand. Mr Shah says the group made sure that not a single hatchling died.

A sight for sore eyes

The Olive Ridley species of turtles is the smallest but most abundant species of turtle in the seas. Nevertheless, it is still classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN. Mother turtles lay their eggs in a huge mass-nesting process that is referred to as arribada. In Odisha which is a state on the East coast of India a record 428,083 Olive Ridley turtles nested simultaneously. Though the species has been known to nest in other parts of Mumbai, not a single one has been seen on Versova beach for decades because of its massive pollution problem. Mr Shah said he was enormously gratified at the sight of the turtles making their way to the ocean and it brought tears to his eyes.

Teaching people to live sustainably

For over two years Mr Shah has been spearheading a volunteer effort that manually picked up rubbish from the beach and teaching villagers in the area to lead more sustainable less polluting lives. About 55,00 people live along this beach and the waterways that make their way into it, which feeds the megacity of Mumbai. Mr Shah said he led by example offering to clean communal toilets and pick up rubbish before seeking help.  Mr Shah said that for the first couple of months no one lent a hand, then two men approached him and politely asked him if they could join. When that happened Mr Shah knew his project would be a success.

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Captive Dolphins Are Happy In The Company Of Humans But Does That Mean We Should Keep Them?

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Scientists working with dolphins at a French marine park are trying to measure how they feel about different aspects of their captive lives. The researchers say this is the first time anyone has ever sought to examine captivity from the perspective of the animal. The scientists were trying to determine what activities the dolphins looked forward to the most. What they found is the dolphins most keenly anticipated interacting with humans they were familiar with.

Measuring dolphin happiness in captivity

The study was part of a three-year project designed to measure dolphin welfare whilst they are in captivity. The researchers designed experiments to decode the behavior of the marine mammal, seeking to look for physical postures that suggested how the dolphins felt. The team wanted to find out which activities captive dolphins like the most. To do that they tested three activities, a trainer coming and playing with the dolphins, adding toys to their environment and a control where the dolphins were left alone.

Spy hopping

The results are interesting though hardly a surprise. All dolphins look forward to most is interacting with a familiar human. They displayed their anticipation by “spy hopping” this is when the dolphin peers above the surface and looks toward the direction that their trainers usually approach them from. The dolphins would also increase the amount of their activity and spend more time at the edge of the pool. The researchers say this behavior has been seen in both zoo and farm animals as well which means that a better human-animal bond equals greater welfare.

A ‘happy’ social life

The morality of whether it is ethical to hold dolphins in captivity has been a source of contention particularly in France. Recently the French government reversed a proposed ban on captive dolphin breeding at marine parks. Marine park administrators were extremely relieved by the lifting of the ban because they claim allowing dolphins to breed and raise their young is a very important part of what constitutes a happy life for a captive dolphin, though it is completely different to life in the wild. Park administrators claim that wild dolphins are happier in the oceans whilst captive born dolphins are happier in captivity.

Is it a good idea to keep dolphins captive?

Experts say however, that it is not possible to tell whether a dolphin in captivity is really happier than it would be were it in the wild. They add that whilst it is important to learn that captive dolphins seek out human contact and this finding can be applied to the management of other intelligent species, just because a dolphin chooses to interact, doesn’t automatically imply that it would choose a captive lifestyle if given a choice.

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Leopard Gets Up Close And Personal With Tourist On Safari

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Recently a tourist on safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta was sitting in a vehicle and was approached by a young leopard that appeared to be extremely curious. The leopard then set about biting and playing with the tourist’s shoe. Whilst the tourist was probably quite disturbed by the incident, fortunately it ended without any injury or death. Experts however were none to pleased and said the result could have been very different.

Safari guide made a mistake

Apparently as the leopard approached the vehicle, the safari guide responsible for the safety of the tourists allegedly instructed his charges to remain completely still in order not to startle the big cat. The leopard leapt into the vehicle and scratched at the leg of the tourist, pawing and biting his shoe. After reviewing the footage of the incident, experts said what should have happened was the drive should have started the engine the moment the leopard closed in on the car. It was extremely irresponsible for the guide to allow a leopard to approach a tourist. If the leopard starts regularly interacting with people, someone will eventually get hurt and the animal will have to be put down.

It’s a fine line

When the driver eventually did start the vehicle, the noise made by the engine scared the leopard away. The encounter is an illustration of the fine line safari guides must negotiate between providing the best possible experience for a guest as well as the long-term relationship between humans and animals. On one hand, if a guide routinely scares of animals approaching vehicles, that could end up displeasing tourists and threaten their income. Alternatively, if a leopard does approach a vehicle and there are no negative consequences, it may continue that behaviour, ultimately ending with an attack on an individual.

Leopards need to know that humans are not on the menu

In this particular situation it is not completely possible to say no harm no foul. There was a little bit of an issue. We have to remember that cats do enjoy playing with their food and that a young leopard is still learning what it has the ability to take down and eat. The main problem in this case is that the young leopard did not learn that there is a negative connotation associated with interacting with humans directly. Hopefully the leopard does eventually learn that humans are not part of its menu. Fortunately, in this instance a tourist walked away with the tale of a lifetime, nevertheless being that close to a leopard is not a good idea.

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Spending Time With Wild Mountain Gorillas Is A Life Changing Experience

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Usually after tourists return from visiting mountain gorillas in Rwanda, they declare it to be “a life changing experience”. Mountain gorillas are an incredibly unique species that display complex behaviour and exhibit distinct personalities so it is not surprising that eco-tourists feel this way. Just getting to the mountain gorilla in the wild is a thrilling experience since they live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Their habitat is one of the few remaining tropical mountain forests, perched on the steep slopes of the Virunga volcanoes.

Simply unforgettable

Gorilla groups have spread themselves across all five volcanic mountains and the first sight of them is simply unforgettable. When tourists find themselves up close and personal with the species they are usually amazed by how perfectly calm mountain gorillas are. They tend to glance at humans but quickly return to what they were doing. The adult male mountain gorilla is huge and can weigh as much as 400 pounds. They are the famous silverbacks, so called because of the grey coloured hair on their backs. Adult females are much smaller and do not have grey backs.

Eating and resting

Arguably the most fascinating thing to watch is the mountain gorilla eating. The group tends to spread out to do this in order to achieve the greatest accessibility to the plants they consume. Gorillas feed on leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruits and in order to get the required level of nutrition they need to feed on between 40 to 80 pounds of plants a day. Feeding periods tend to last for quite a bit of time, after which the gorillas usually take break and rest. This is the best time to observe how they interact socially because you can see which gorillas stay near each other, and who is closest to the dominant male.

Play time

Whilst the adults rest, the younger gorillas usually play by chasing, tickling and wrestling with one another. This is quite hard work as it goes, so they also tend to have to take breaks and rest in order to recover. Play is critical for young gorillas because it trains them in the same way playing trains human children. Although young gorillas play, it is not limited to them alone, and gorillas of all ages can engage in play.

Behaviours to observe

Mountain gorillas like to engage in grooming one another and if you are lucky enough to visit, one of the most precious moments you can experience is when a mother carefully grooms her infant. The dominant male usually decides when the resting session ends and will then set the next destination for the group. As soon as he makes a move, the rest of the group follows him in a line, with the more dominant members at the front. If you ever get the chance to see a gorilla group on the move, you will be surprised at how quickly they disappear into the forest.

Make sure you remain aware

One of the most memorable wildlife experiences you will ever have will be to spend time with mountain gorillas. There are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild, so it is really important that tourists are aware of their own behaviour when they are with the species so as to minimise the risk. This means you need to make sure you maintain the required distance away from them. If you need to cough, do so into your arm and do not eat or spit in the forest.

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Snow Leopard Census To Take Place Over The Next Five Years

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Due to their high-altitude habitat in the bitterly cold Himalayas, snow leopards are one of the most difficult apex predators to study. Despite many decades of research, no one is quite sure how many of these elusive big cats exist. There are 12 countries in Asia that the snow leopard calls its home, and they have all got together to conduct a five-year census of the species through the use of camera traps and radio collars as well as hair and scat identification.

Downgraded conservation status by IUCN

It was decided to conduct the census following last year’s controversial decision by the IUCN to remove the snow leopard from its endangered species list after nearly half a century. Snow leopards have now been reclassified as a vulnerable species which suggests their risk of extinction is not as great as what experts previously believed. The change was based on an estimated snow leopard population of 8000 across Asia. Experts complain there is no way to tell how many snow leopards exist and every estimate so far has simply been a guess.

No unified protection

Conservationists worry that there is no unified protection for the species across the countries it calls home. They are also concerned about the long-term viability of snow leopards because of human encroachment, climate change and poaching. Removing snow leopards from the endangered species list produces the false impression that the species is safe. Getting results from the snow leopards is not an easy task because the big cats have evolved specifically for their habitats in the cold heights.

Specifically evolved for high altitude

Snow leopards have the thickest fur of all the big cats as well as a thick tail that they use to wrap around themselves to remain warm. They also have broad facial bones and a large nasal cavity enabling them to breathe in the extremely cold air and warm it up. When you add the fact that snow leopards have a high concentration of red blood cells to maximise the uptake of oxygen, it is no surprise that the species does not tire easily whilst climbing mountains and has no problems at heights exceeding 18,000 feet. This makes the snow leopard extremely hard to track even for the fittest of researchers.

Predictable behaviour

One advantage conservationists have is that the snow leopard is a fairly predictable animal, frequenting the same territory and spraying it to mark it out. This means that trackers can install camera traps which can be used to identify individual cats using their spots. It is estimated that it will take about five years to complete the census. Experts says that human encroachment and climate change have produces areas in the snow leopard’s habitat where the population is thinly dispersed. This creates islands that prevent movement and bottleneck diversity. Last year three subspecies were discovered suggesting fractured groups.

 

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the adopt an animal blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

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