Adopt an Animal - News

Tourists Come Across Unique Sight Of 200 Polar Bears Feasting On Whale Carcass

New Home Could Be Found For Sad Polar Bear

A group of people on a boat tour in the far Eastern Russian Arctic didn’t know what they were seeing for a good few minutes until they realised that there were as many as 200 polar bears roaming on the slope of a mountain. The tourists said they were gobsmacked by what can only be described as a completely unique situation. The bears were there to feed on the carcass of a bowhead whale that had washed ashore. After eating their fill, they then rested near the source of their meal. The group of bears included a number of families including a couple of mothers who were being trailed by four cubs each.

Climate change is changing polar bear behaviour

Climate change has meant that sea ice has started form much later in the year and the ice is necessary for the bears to hunt seals which is the main constituent of their diet. Lack of ice means bears are now being forced to spend more time on land than they ordinarily would and whilst the sight of 200 polar bears may have been exciting for tourists, in reality more bears are being crammed together on coasts and islands and will have to compete for what limited food is available on land.

Hungry bears

Hungry bears also wander into villages which puts locals at risk. A whale however represents a real gift because an adult whale weighs several tens of tonnes and can act as a source of food for a good few months. Studies have show that polar bears now spend an average of a month longer on land compared with two decades ago. The IUCN estimates that the Arctic serves as home to approximately 26,000 polar bears and there is potential for a large reduction in their population over the long term due to loss of sea ice.

Population is stable at the moment

For now, experts says the polar bear population in the Arctic sea area shared by the US and Russia seems to be both productive and healthy for now. However, as the amount of time they are forced to spend on land increases, their nutrition and body condition will be negatively impacted. Nobody is sure at what point the polar bear population will begin to experience the negative effects of climate change. Does a delay of one and half months for the sea ice to form impact them, or is it two months or more? There is obviously some threshold and we will only come to know what it is in the future.

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Trophy Hunting Could Push Species Into Extinction

Lions On The Lose In Nairobi

A new study suggests that hunters who pick targets that stand out from the crowd because of their lustrous manes or impressive horns could well result in species extinction. The research claims that if hunters remove just 5 per cent of high-quality males, then there is a risk that the entire population could be wiped out given that many species already face intense pressure from a fast-changing world.

Removal of the best genes from the pool

Researchers say that animals deemed to be the most valuable by trophy hunters because of their tusks, antlers, manes or horns typically have the best genes and removing them from the gene pool could result in the species being pushed over the edge. The global debate over trophy hunting is intense. Conservationists argue that it should be banned or at the very least restricted. Other conservationists say the revenue trophy hunting generates can generate valuable revenue that could be used for conservation.

High-quality males father the most offspring

Dr Rob Knell of the University of London who is responsible for the research says the assumption that selective harvesting does not pose a threat to a population of animals fails to consider the most recent research. Dr Knell adds that high-quality males tend to father a high proportion of offspring ensuring their good genes remain within the pool and rapidly spread. This means that populations that consist of strong sexually selected animals have the ability to quickly adapt to new environments. The removal of such males will reverse this effect and this will obviously have consequences that are serious even if they are unintended.

Humans hunt the most attractive animals

Human hunting significantly contrasts with natural predation because trophy hunters actively target large animals which are usually males. Illegal poachers do the same thing killing elephants with the biggest tusks so their ivory can be harvested for illicit trade. Its no secret that human hunting has caused the extinction of many species and whilst the practice is legal in many countries, big game hunting takes place over a larger area in sub-Saharan Africa than is conserved in national parks.

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Habitat Destruction Bringing Leopards Into Conflict With Humans

Leopard near extinction

Recently a leopard wandered into school building in the Indian state of Assam and ended up mauling four people.  Forest officials think that the leopard was simply seeking somewhere to rest for the night before going hunting for prey. Workers doing some construction work entered the school in the morning and four of them were attacked ending up in hospital with everyone surviving.

Deforestation is a big problem

This disturbing story is basically emblematic of the problem of deforestation in India and what habitat loss means for the relationship between leopards and humans who live on the border of their ecosystem. According to the IUCN Red List leopards are currently classified as being vulnerable. Experts say it’s not the first-time leopards and humans have come into conflict and it most certainly won’t be the last. Unfortunately, as people continue to encroach on forest area, the problem is only going to get worse.

Leopards have no food to eat

The city of Guwahati is the largest city in the North-Eastern Indian state of Assam and is surrounded by 18 hills. The foothills used to be covered by old growth forest but during the 18th century the British planted non-native pine trees instead with the intention of cutting them down. This means there are few places for the leopard to hide and the species is finding it harder and harder to find natural prey to feed on.

Mob mentality takes over

Steve Winter a photographer for National Geographic who spent six months in Assam photographing the species and learning about them says leopards simply have no food. Occasionally one will venture into a village at night time looking for livestock or street dogs but when the sun rises they find they have no way out. When a leopard becomes stuck in the city, it faces the problem of madness and mob mentality of the crowd. In this latest incident, as news spread it became almost impossible for the veterinary team to tranquilise the leopard who grew more agitated as the crowd developed.

Crowds complicate rescue efforts

It took the rescue team about an hour and half and forest officials blame the large gathering of spectators as being the main reason for the delay. Unfortunately, the animal became increasingly stressed and agitated which made the operation much more complicated. According to zoo officials, the leopard was a healthy adult and was successfully tranquilised and transferred to the zoo, but not before sustaining minor injuries received whilst trying to avoid the crowd.

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President Trump’s Border Wall Will Mean The Extinction Of Jaguars In The United States

Jaguar return in doubt

Wildlife experts and biologists believe that one-day jaguars could make a return to the United States if the country leaves a trail open for females to follow males that have been spotted in the country. There have been seven confirmed male jaguars spotted in the US since 1996. Five of those males ventured into Southern Arizona and two were seen in South-Western New Mexico. Jaguars have effectively been extinct in both places for decades.

Hopes have been raised for a return of the big cat

Automated trail cameras captured footage of two new jaguars in Arizona since last autumn and this has raised hopes amongst conservationists that the big cat may well return to the United States after being hunted nearly to extinction. Unfortunately, politics is throwing a spanner into the works, the jaguar’s fate will largely depend on whether US President Donald Trump fulfils his pledge to build a border wall. An impenetrable wall would mean no male or female jaguar would be able to cross into the United States and this would all but mean extinction for the species in the US.

Status of jaguars in Mexico is also uncertain

The jaguar faces other threats as well. In Mexico for example the big cat is threatened by many of the same things its US ancestors faced almost a century ago. Ranchers see the big cat as a predator that preys on their livestock. The development of roads and settlements causes habitat loss and fragmentation. As humans alter the environment, the food chain weakens. Before the jaguar can return to the United States it will first have to survive South of the border so conservationists are concentrating their efforts at protecting the species hunting ground. They are also seeking to educate ranchers so that they are more willing to share their land with the big cat. Since jaguars are apex predators, if the environment can sustain the species, the rest of the ecosystem will have a better chance at survival.

There is a conservation plan in place, but its future depends on Trump

Officially the United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists the jaguar as being an endangered species and has therefore created a species-recovery plan. The draft plan was proposed less than a month before Mr Trump assumed the office of President and focuses on ensuring that the country stays connected with Mexico. In the absence of a wall, there are at present at least seven wilderness crossings a female jaguar migrating from Mexico could take to meet with a mate. However, if a structure is built that is impervious to humans, it would also be impervious to jaguars as well, forcing them to turn back. This means building a wall would effectively seal the fate of the jaguar in the United States.

The wall means extinction

Conservationists rarely see things in such black and white terms when it comes to individual threats to wildlife. However, when it comes to the wall, there is broad consensus. People and jaguars use the same mountains to cross the border and if an unbroken barrier is built to stop people from crossing, it simply means extinction of the jaguar in the United States which is a real shame.

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Diver Saves Sea Turtle From Choking On Plastic Bag

Sea Turtle

A diver rescued a sea turtle from certain death after the turtle swallowed a plastic bag that ended up becoming lodged eight inches down the adult female’s throat. Saeed Rashid a lecturer at Bournemouth University was diving in the Red Sea when he came across a couple of Hawksbill turtles that were feeding on jellyfish. After snapping a number of pictures Mr Rashid realised that the female turtle was experiencing some distress and could not feed because the plastic bag was blocking her airway.

Turtle was starving

Mr Rashid decided to act and pulled the bag free from the sea turtle’s throat allowing the turtle who was clearly starving to feed once again. Mr Rashid said as he got close to the turtle and took a couple of pictures of her feeding he realised there was a plastic bag in her mouth and she was unable to eat. Instead she was simply nudging at the jellyfish and was obviously in distress. Mr Rashid has over 20 years of diving experience and has travelled all over the world but says there has been a massive increase in the amount of plastic pollution that is floating around the world’s oceans.

Plastic pollution is a major problem

Mr Rashid says he has tried to collect what he can but his efforts are meaningless in comparison to the sheer scale of plastic pollution in the ocean. He adds that when he realised the situation the turtle was in he put away his camera and attempted to pry the bag from its mouth. The bag was not only lodged in her mouth but extended all the way down her throat. This meant he had to hold onto the turtle’s shell and physically wrestle it from her. Fortunately, the turtle remained calm and allowed him to manhandle her. But once her mouth was open, the bag came out.

The turtles seemed grateful

The irony of the situation was, as soon as she was freed of the first bag, a second bag floated by that she also tried eat. Mr Rashid was quick to remove that bag from her sights and the turtle then went about her business eating jellyfish. After removing the plastic, Mr Rashid says both turtles followed him to the surface and began to play with him.

Public outrage

If you have been watching Blue Planet II then you will be acutely aware of the effect that plastic has on ocean life. In one scene of the series, a pilot whale was shown carrying her dead newborn around for days, simply unable to let it go. The episode sparked outrage amongst viewers and campaigners because the program suggested the calf had been poisoned by its mother’s polluted milk.

There are solutions to the problem

The Treasury is considering imposing a tax on plastic items such as throwaway trays for ready meals. Greenpeace has been aggressively campaigning against microbeads and it has paid off. The Government has promised to outlaw their use in cosmetics. The 5p tax on plastic bags has worked and resulted in a dramatic fall in their usage.

"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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