Beth Pratt raised millions for a cougar overpass – Los Angeles Times

www.latimes.com

Louis Sahagún 12 – 15 minutes

MIDPINES, Calif. — 

On a warm spring morning in 1976, when Beth Pratt was 7 years old, she noticed a “For sale” sign posted in the woods near her home just north of Boston.

“I asked my mom what it meant,” she recalled. “She said the land was up for sale and would soon be flattened by bulldozers.”

The next day, Pratt went door to door in her neighborhood of old elms and deep porches asking for donations to save one of her favorite outdoor playgrounds. Then she called the phone number on the sign and made an offer: $5.

After several seconds of silence, the person on the other end of the line said, “Wonderful. Just $40,000 more and that property is all yours.”

Today, Pratt is still raising money for causes she believes in. At 52, Pratt heads the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign, which seeks to raise funds to build an $87-million bridge that will allow isolated clans of cougars to cross a 10-lane stretch of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.

To get a full measure of her dedication to the cause, start with the campaign’s poster puma, P-22. A likeness of the lone mountain lion prowling the chaparral-covered slopes in Griffith Park is tattooed on Pratt’s upper left arm.

Groundbreaking is just around the corner. The thought of it brings a proud smile to her face.

“When I took on this assignment I thought, well, how hard can it be?” Pratt said, shaking her head. “I didn’t dream it would grow into a nearly $100-million project that would consume almost 10 years of my life.”

The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is set to break ground in late January.

An artist’s rendering of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, set to break ground in late January.

(Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation)

When it is completed, the 200-foot-long, 165-foot-wide bridge will be the largest and most expensive of its kind in the world — and the only one designed to save a species from extinction.

It is crucial, scientists say, to restoring gene flow among small, isolated populations of cougars trapped south of the freeway that roars with 300,000 vehicles each day in the Santa Monica Mountains and cougars confined to the north in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.

Recent scientific studies suggest there’s an almost 1 in 4 chance that Southern California mountain lions, which have the lowest genetic diversity documented for the species aside from the critically endangered Florida panther, could become extinct within 50 years.

The next few months are vital for those cougars and for Pratt, regional executive director in California for the federation. As of early December, the effort still needed $5 million to meet deadlines and contractual obligations.

Beth Pratt works in her office at her home in Midpines, Calif., near Yosemite National Park.

Beth Pratt works in her office at her home in Midpines, Calif., near Yosemite National Park. Her ability to raise considerable amounts of money owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

Yet Pratt looked pleased on a recent morning, writing grant proposals and soliciting donations over the phone in her home near Yosemite National Park. Her living area is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.

She had reason to be pleased. Future historians may look back on the second decade or so of 21st century American architecture as the Age of Wildlife Crossings. Congress in November passed a national infrastructure package that for the first time sets aside $350 million in federal funding for wildlife crossings to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in all 50 states.

This would not have been the situation most people would have predicted when Pratt took on the tricky fundraising job. Wildlife bridge proposals, she quickly learned, come with a hitch: You need money to get past the blueprints, but you need blueprints to generate donations.

It’s rare these days — and almost impossible — to see a big-bucks urban wildlife project survive such long odds, particularly in a region that is home to unbearable traffic jams, smog and cookie-cutter planned developments.

Her ability to raise money in breathtaking amounts owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders — celebrities, corporate leaders and philanthropists — who have ready cash and enjoy throwing elegant private fundraisers for progressive causes.

Beth Pratt relaxes at her home in Midpines, Calif.

Beth Pratt, a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, relaxes at her home in Midpines, Calif.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

While the Westside may not be the natural habitat of a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, Pratt learned that she could successfully coax the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Barbra Streisand without changing habits.

Pratt carries a backpack instead of a purse. At one Beverly Hills fundraiser, the host asked, “Are you going hiking after this?”

“I discovered that mountain lions are a great icebreaker when you don’t have much else in common,” she said. “For example, when I met my favorite actor, Viggo Mortensen, at a Santa Barbara film festival, I only talked about cougars and not about my 20-year crush on him.” Pratt shoved a furry P-22 figurine under his arm as a reminder.

Her other gifts are patience, energy, ambition and what Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation, described as “relentless competence.”

Between solicitations to prospective donors, Pratt has partnered with photographer Robb Hirsch to publish the first in-depth account of the wildlife in Yosemite in almost 100 years.

She also promotes the Liberty Canyon project during visits to local elementary schools and annually retraces the 20-mile odyssey that P-22 braved from the Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park. The cat’s route took him over concrete and backyards, commuter traffic and culverts.

A 2014 photo provided by the National Park Service shows a mountain lion known as P-22 in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles.

(National Park Service )

“Some of her supporters have been moved to tears,” said Paul Edelman, deputy director of natural resources for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, “seeing Beth emerge from the brush near the carousel at Griffith Park looking bedraggled, dusty and sunburned.”

When asked about her heroes, she quickly gives credit to Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.

Selfie taken by Beth Pratt of herself and Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp

A selfie taken by Beth Pratt with Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, right, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.

(Beth Pratt)

Pratt sensed a kindred spirit in Mapp after they met about a decade ago. They both have great faith in the transformative power of the outdoors, and they both were struggling through personal issues while launching unprecedented projects that would define their careers and nurture new cooperative relationships between the urban and the wild.

“We became professional confidants who bonded in our own brand of sisterhood,” said Mapp, 49, a former Morgan Stanley analyst whose Outdoor Afro has expanded into a nonprofit with chapters in 36 cities across the nation. “For us, it was like Stars Wars’ Yoda says, ‘Do or not do. There is no trying.’”

::

The #SaveLACougars campaign kicked off in 2014 after the National Wildlife Federation and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund joined forces to raise money for the project at Liberty Canyon, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

“Normally, the majority of funding for projects of this scale comes from government agencies and not private donations,” Pratt said. “But the incentive was powerful to act quickly and reach out to visionary private investors or the lions of L.A. County would vanish within our lifetime.”

One of Pratt’s first donors was veteran rocker David Crosby. “This has always been a very uphill project and Beth is a very brave, focused and strong girl,” he said. “I plan to be there when they cut the ribbon on that wildlife bridge.”

Beth Pratt holds a cutout of a mountain lion

Beth Pratt’s home in Midpines, Calif., is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

Since 2020, wildlife biologists have discovered the physical manifestations of extremely low genetic diversity among several of the dozen cougars that roam the 275 square miles in and around the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area — a tail kinked like the letter “L,” only one descended testicle and abnormal sperm.

In the face of such a dire prognosis — what biologists call an extinction vortex — conservationists are stepping up calls for construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing at Liberty Canyon.

As envisioned by architects and Caltrans, cougars would move unseen by humans over a reinforced concrete-and-steel wildlife crossing landscaped with native vegetation — including oak and willow trees — and irrigation systems, and shielded with sound walls and light deflectors to dampen the noise and glare of headlights below.

Fencing up to 12 feet high would funnel wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, deer, coyotes, skunks, badgers, squirrels, mice and lizards over the passage. To reduce roadkill, fencing would also extend several miles in both directions from the project footprint.

Project partners include the California Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Because the bridge crosses the freeway, Caltrans will oversee design and construction — but the agency is not providing funding. Instead, most of the funds come from more than 3,000 private, philanthropic and corporate donors around the world, including a recent $25-million challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.

Mountain lions as a species are not threatened in California, but the state Fish and Game Commission has granted cougars in six regions from Santa Cruz to the U.S.-Mexico border “candidate status” to be listed as threatened sometime next year.

The action came in response to a petition co-sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity and the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation. It argues that six isolated and distinct cougar clans within those regions make up a subpopulation that is threatened by extinction.

“In car-centric California, what we do with our roads is critical to the future of mountain lions,” said Brendan Cummings, the center’s conservation director. “A new, more hopeful relationship is breaking ground on the side of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon.

“This project is significant not just because it will directly benefit our endangered Southern California cougars,” he added, “but also because of what it represents: the most important step toward reimagining and rebuilding our infrastructure to ensure a continuing place for them and other wildlife in 21st century California and beyond.”

Not everyone is a believer, however. Critics ask why we should willingly share more space in our crowded world with stealthy, 140-pound predators who kill livestock and might menace us if we walk down a trail at night.

Pratt has answers. And there is an edge of impatience mixed with her self-effacing humor as she delivers them.

“I don’t want to see people hurt, but it’s important to put the risk in perspective,” she says. “Over the past century there’ve been less than 20 mountain lion attacks in California, six of them fatal. Yet, 3,000 to 4,000 people die every year on California’s highways.

“So c’mon,” she adds, “ask yourself when was the last time you helped pull an endangered lion back from the edge of extinction?”

There have been tumultuous years. But by perseverance and a generous measure of personal charm, Pratt has become California’s most recognizable promoter of wildlife crossings.

“Beth rocks,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis. “I’d like to see her apply her considerable organizing powers to other roads driving local lions toward extinction.”

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2021-12-11/beth-pratt-raised-millions-for-a-cougar-overpass

2 young Asian elephants die days apart at US zoo

local21news.com

LEE BULLEN | Zenger News

An elephant virus is responsible for the deaths of two calves at a New Mexico zoo since Christmas Day, according to the Albuquerque BioPark.

A statement from the park said that Jazmine, 8, died from the effects of her infection on Jan. 2, and her brother, Thorn, 3 died from the same virus on Dec. 25.

2 young Asian elephants die days apart at US zoo. Jazmine and Thorn are seen playing and feeding in this video prior to their deaths. (Albuquerque BioPark)

The calves died after being diagnosed with elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, known as EEHV, the zoo said. The virus also killed a 5-year-old Asian elephant calf named Daizy in 2015.

“While not much is known about EEHV, the disease can progress rapidly, and early detection is critical,” the zoo said.

The zoo shared video of Thorn, and said that since he was a baby, “Thorn was trained to be active in his health care and voluntarily participate in medical exams, including presenting his ears to allow for a weekly blood draw. This behavior, along with weekly testing, allowed the biopark’s animal care team to discover the virus in Thorn’s blood at a very low level. The BioPark staff immediately began working around the clock to treat the illness. Treatments started with antiviral medications and fluids. As Thorn’s disease continued to progress, the team shifted to twice-daily sedated treatments to ensure he was getting everything he needed, in addition to the non-sedated fluid and antiviral treatments. He also received regular infusions of plasma, whole blood and stem cells.”

The National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., provided bloodwork services and EEHV expertise, the zoo said, and additional assistance came from other accredited zoos.

“Thorn’s short life had a great impact on the lives of other elephants,” the zoo said. “His birth was significant because he was born in the presence of his sister, Jazmine, and grandmother, Alice. This natural herd birth was a huge advancement in the care and socialization of elephants in human care.

“He was also raised in a multi-age herd that includes his sister, grandmother, mother Rozie, adult male Albert and adult female Irene. The zoo’s practices that allowed Thorn and the rest of the herd to use their natural behaviors are leading the way for elephant care across the United States and the world.”

In the case of Jazmine, “the zoo’s elephant experts and veterinary teams did everything in their power — and then some” to help her, said the park’s director, Stephanie Stowell. “Jazmine matched their efforts every step along the way. True to her strong-willed nature, Jazmine fought valiantly against the disease.

“Adding to the anguish of losing a beloved animal, Jazmine’s death marks a considerable loss to the future of Asian elephants. Jazmine was on a carefully planned path to become an elephant matriarch.

Had Jazmine survived, the zoo said, “her skills and experiences would have enabled her to raise her own calves and lead elephants in her own multigenerational herd.

“Jazmine’s short life will have a long-term impact on other elephants in human care as well as in the wild.”

Stowell said all elephants can carry EEHV in a latent state throughout their entire lives without negative effects.

It is not known why the virus sometimes comes out of latency, she said.

“Elephants are most susceptible to EEHV from 18 months to 8 years of age. EEHV causes hemorrhagic disease that can be fatal for young elephants. It is the leading cause of death for Asian elephant calves and can strike elephants in the wild and in human care.

“Each case of EEHV hemorrhagic disease, while tragic, does provide us with more information on its causes, transmission, and treatment. The elephant community rallied around Albuquerque BioPark to provide support with husbandry, treatment, and testing.

“We are devastated by these latest two deaths, and we hope that the incredible cooperation amongst our colleagues will continue to provide answers on how best to prevent these deaths,” said Erin Latimer, a spokesperson for the EEHV Advisory Group that dedicated their time to administering the EEHV treatment regime.

https://local21news.com/news/nation-world/video-2-young-asian-elephants-die-days-apart-at-us-zoo

Lovely in Solitude

www.earthisland.org

Lovely in Solitude

Haniya Javed 8 – 10 minutes


In Pakistan, a snow leopard in captivity highlights the plight of her species.

Our 4×4 truck bumps over boulders and splashes through streams as it drives further into the deep forest of Naltar Valley in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region. This area is popular for its alpine ski slopes, mountain glaciers, green meadows, and vibrant lakes. But today, our guide has promised us a view of one of the Himalaya’s more hidden natural wonders.

We’re on our way to see a snow leopard.

Our bumpy ride comes to a halt in a clearing of trimmed grass scattered with pine cones. Tall trees cast shadows on the hot summer day and wave in an intermittent breeze.

We get out of the car, stretch our limbs, and make our way to a caged enclosure, where a bearded man named Ghulam Rasool greets us. He then turns toward the cage, makes kissing noises, and calls out, “Meri Lovely (My Lovely.)” Lovely, known locally as Lolly, looks away uninterested, her spotted black and white back towards the crowd. “She’s well fed at the moment,” says Rasool. “She growls and responds when she wants food. She’s a good girl.”

As more tourists arrive and the chatter gets louder, Lovely lets out a low rumble. It’s a faintly audible growl from deep within her body — nothing like the roar seen and heard in popular media. She turns her head and briefly scans the commotion, opens her mouth to show sharp canines, and then looks away again, back into her own world.

Lovely is a nine-year-old snow leopard who spends day and night alone, with no other animals of her kind. The only change in her life are her two habitats. In the winter, when snow blankets the valley and snow leopards look for food and mates, their fur keeping them warm and broad paws working as snowshoes, Lovely is kept in a cage near a ski resort. When the snow melts away, she’s brought into the lush green valley where tourists visit her. She has never hunted or mated. Nor will she be able to.

“Lovely’s only utility at the moment is recreation,” said Hussain Ali regional program manager of the Snow Leopard Foundation. “Since she didn’t receive the early days training of hunting and survival from her mother her chances of survival on her own are nil.”

As I watch Lovely in her cage, I’m struck by the paradox this big cat represents. Snow leopards belong in the wild, but Lovely’s captivity affords tourists the ability to see a snow leopard up close, to learn about this predator’s plight. This cage is also her blessing, in a region where snow leopards are losing habitat and the mountains they call home are becoming more and more inhospitable. As Ali says, without her captivity, Lovely would likely be dead.

Snow leopards populate the mountain ranges of 12 countries across Central and South Asia. Scientists estimate that fewer than 6,400 snow leopards inhabit an estimated area of 1.8 million square kilometers. Their habitat is threatened by development and land degradation. Snow leopards are also killed by pastoralists who see the big cats as predatory threats to their livestock. According to a report from the World Wildlife Fund, an estimated 450 snow leopards are killed each year.

In Pakistan, as part of a recent habitat sampling, it has been estimated that there could be as few as 40 snow leopards, far fewer than previous estimates of around 420 cats. However, experts believe that more than 70 percent of the world’s snow leopard habitats are still unknown — and many of these habitats may be situated in Pakistan. Either way, saving and conserving every snow leopard is important.

But in Lovely’s case, saving her meant taking her from the wild. In December 2012, volunteers from the Khunjerab Villagers Organization (KVO), a community-based nonprofit working for wildlife conservation, were on a routine stroll around Khunjerab National Park, more than 100 kilometers from Lovely’s present location. Upon reaching the Khunjerab River, the volunteers spotted a female snow leopard perched against the backdrop of the snowy mountains, gazing into the far distance.

The volunteers instantly took out their camera and began to film. After all, these elusive big cats rarely showed themselves. In the footage shared by the volunteers, the snow leopard sits still, her translucent gaze mirroring the breathtaking views around her. She looks below the line of the camera facing her and then switches her gaze upward on her left. Then, for a split second, she looks squarely into the lens of the camera.

While the volunteers watched her make these repeated motions, they heard a low cat-like whimper from below. They looked down to find a cub by the riverbank, its foot stuck in the icy slush. The cub, hardly a month or two old, appeared to be frozen.

“The mother snow leopard was watching the cub from atop,” said Mubat Karim Gircha, office manager at KVO. In the video, the mother snow leopard starts climbing up hill, looks one last look behind, and disappears from sight. “The mother was crossing the river along with her two cubs. One of the cubs made it across and went its way climbing up. The other one, Lovely, was left frozen along the bank,” he said.

After the mother left, torn between her concern for the two cubs in opposing directions, the volunteers, along with representatives from the provincial wildlife department, took the cub to a nearby wildlife check post. A small fire was lit and goat’s milk was fed to the cub.

The next evening, officials from the Snow Leopard Foundation, including Hussain Ali, visited the site and inspected the snow leopard’s condition. “It was in good health,” said Ali. “We scanned the area and tried locating the tracks of the mother. The cub [inside the cage] was left outside for four to five hours in the hopes that the mother may come looking for her,” he said, adding that it didn’t work. “The local community and volunteers were extremely anxious that the cub would die if left on its own in the wild. Hence, there was no option but to keep it in captivity inside a sanctuary.”

Lovely isn’t the only case of a captured snow leopard living a lonely life. One prominent case is Leo, who currently resides in the Bronx Zoo in New York City. In 2005, Leo was recovered from a shepherd in Naltar Valley and moved temporarily to New York as part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the World Conservation Society and the Gilgit-Baltistan administration.

Another case is the tragic tale of snow leopard, Sohni, who died in captivity three years ago in a zoo in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Sohni was originally gifted to the son of Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and had been living a life of isolation and neglect.

Lovely isn’t neglected, but she could be taken care of in a better way. If anything, her presence is a reminder that we have work to do when it comes to learning how to coexist with these big cats. As excited kids poke their fingers through the cage to get a reaction from Lovely and adults gather against the enclosure to pose for a selfie with her in the background, one can’t help but think about how circumscribed this beautiful creature’s life is here. When the numbers of her species are depleting for so many reasons, and little is known about those very numbers due to unchartered areas of research, Lovely stands as a reminder of the wild leopards we should strive to protect.

Haniya Javed

Haniya Javed is an independent reporter from Pakistan covering the environment, human rights, and labor migrations. She tweets @haniyajaved1.

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https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/lovely-in-solitude/

Well it’s about time!

The Beauty of Mother Nature

Agami Heron – American Bird Conservancy

Agami Heron range map, NatureServe

abcbirds.org

The colorful, reclusive Agami Heron is a coveted sighting for birders visiting flooded lowland forests and slow-moving waterways of Central and South America. This long-billed, medium-sized heron is so distinctive that it occupies its own genus, Agamia. Its species name, “Agami,” comes from a Cayenne Indian word for a forest bird.

In Brazil, the Agami is sometimes called Soco beija-flor, “hummingbird heron,” for its vivid plumage. It’s also commonly known as the Chestnut-bellied Heron.

Threats to Agami Heron are poorly understood, but habitat loss is probably one of the most significant factors affecting this heron and other birds that share its lowland habitat, including Mangrove Hummingbird, Great Curassow, and Harpy Eagle.

The Agami Heron’s retiring nature and preference for dense vegetation makes the species difficult to study, and its total population is still unknown. Although resident throughout its range, it moves seasonally, abandoning nesting areas for deeper forest after the breeding season.

Undercover Fisherman

This heron specializes in fishing from river banks or branches overhanging the water. Its long neck and dagger-like bill — the longest of any New World heron’s — gives the Agami a significant striking range, while proportionally short legs confine the bird to shallow water. Agami Herons rarely wade in the open, preferring to forage for small fish, snails, and insects while stalking along under dense cover.

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Equal Opportunity Courtship

Unusual for birds, both male and female Agami Herons flaunt colorful courtship plumage during the breeding season. Both sexes also show heightened color in the lores (the fleshy area between the base of the bill and front of the eyes), which turn an intense red during displays.

The Agami’s spectacular courtship display begins when a male chooses a display site, then starts to “dance” with shaking plumes, rocking movements, and bill-snapping. An interested female will approach the site and perform similar displays until the male accepts her presence. This process may go on for several days, as the male may aggressively repel the female at first. After some persistence on the female’s part, the birds form a pair-bond, mate, and begin to build a nest.

Agami Heron, Kyle C. Moon

Agami Heron in its swanky breeding plumage. Photo by Kyle C. Moon

Recent fieldwork has found that Agami Heron, like Reddish Egret and many other waterbirds, nest in colonies. The birds hide their nests, a loose platform of sticks, within the forest canopy.

Conserving Agami Herons in Costa Rica

The Agami Heron is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, based on predictions of future habitat loss in lowland forests, particularly throughout the Amazon region.

ABC partner Osa Conservation protects several conservation properties in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula where this shy, spectacular heron can be seen, along with more than 450 other species of other birds, including the endangered Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager and Yellow-billed Cotinga.

In 2016, ABC celebrated the 10th anniversary of its sustainable tourism program, which is designed to prevent the extinction of some of the Americas’ rarest bird species. ABC’s reserve network now includes more than 70 tropical reserves, including Costa Rica’s Yellow-billed Cotinga Sanctuary, and spans close to one million acres. Find out more about visiting the Osa here.

https://abcbirds.org/bird/agami-heron/

Rise and Shine

Bald eagles dying ‘senseless deaths,’ Pennsylvania wildlife center says. Here’s why

news.yahoo.com

Julia Marnin

Bald eagles — America’s symbolic bird — are dying “senseless deaths,” a wildlife center in Pennsylvania is warning.

These birds of prey are dying from lead poisoning and have been for years.

“This was a rough year with lead toxicity in our adult bald eagles,” Centre Wildlife Care, a rescue service in Port Matilda in Centre County, wrote in a Dec. 6 Facebook post.

In 2021 alone, eight bald eagles were brought to the center suffering lead poisoning, and seven died.

This problem isn’t exclusive to Pennsylvania; millions of birds are affected each year, including bald eagles, by lead toxicity that is a “leading concern” for many species, according to the American Eagle Foundation.

Poisoning is brought on after birds of prey eat animal carcasses shot with lead ammo by hunters.

“All scavengers and humans are at risk of lead toxicity when consuming meat shot with lead ammo (bullets or pellets) especially the avian scavengers such as eagles, hawks and vultures,” Robyn Graboski, a spokesperson and wildlife rehabilitator for the center, told McClatchy News via email.

“We ask all hunters to use non-lead alternatives when hunting because hunters are our first conservationists.”

One bald eagle brought to the center died on Dec. 5 after it was caught in a leg trap for 10 days, the center said in the news release.

“Sadly, the infection caused by the trap injury complicated by lead poisoning was just too great to overcome. These losses hurt.”

“Simple acts like switching from lead ammo to copper and properly covering traps from aerial view can prevent these senseless deaths,” the center urged.

The bald eagle that recently died “was flying around at least 10 days with a leg hold trap attached to its foot,” Graboski said. “It was caught when it was too weak to fly.”

This eagle died on Dec. 5 after suffering from lead poisoning and infection.
This eagle died on Dec. 5 after suffering from lead poisoning and infection.

“When it arrived, it was thin, weak, dehydrated, anemic, exhausted, lost a toe, had a bacterial infection,” alongside “suffering from lead toxicity,” they added.

Lead poisoning causes a slow death that could last weeks for birds if it goes untreated, the center explains online.

Birds of prey “get lead poisoning through leftover gut piles, un-retrieved carcasses and varmint carcasses left in the field,” according to the center, as fragments of lead ammo “left in the tissue of carcasses” get ingested.

Additionally, the winged creatures can be poisoned from “lead tackle left behind in fish,” the center warns.

“When the lead hits the bird’s acidic stomach, it gets broken down and absorbed into their bloodstream where it can be distributed to tissues throughout their body,” according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

If a bird appears “weak, emaciated, and uncoordinated” and is having trouble walking, flying or moving at all, those are likely signs of lead poisoning, the commission said.

The birds also might suffer seizures, appear blind and refuse to eat anything.

“Bald eagles with lead poisoning often do not respond at all when approached,” the commission added.

It advises hunters to bury an animal’s carcass or gut pile if lead ammo is used.

“If the carcass or gut pile it too large to be removed from the environment, it can be buried or covered with debris to prevent scavengers from accessing the carcass and lead fragments,” according to the commission.

In 2014, Ed Clark, the president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, said in a news release by the American Bird Conservancy that lead poisoning in bald eagles “is not a new problem.”

“The question is not whether or not lead is causing the deaths of eagles and other wild animals; the real question is, what are we going to do about it?”

https://news.yahoo.com/bald-eagles-dying-senseless-deaths-200837291.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=tw&tsrc=twtr

Guest opinion: Tester’s actions should reflect the truth on wolves

Wolf
Wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have stirred passionate debate between supporters and those who would like to see the animals removed from the landscape.

billingsgazette.com

STEPHEN CAPRA

This past year Montana’s governor and the Legislature, led by representative and trapper Paul Fielder from Thompson Falls, passed a series of reckless bills aimed at decimating the wolf population in our state, despite the fact we have record numbers of deer and elk requiring extra-long hunting seasons.

Testimony at the Legislature warned legislators that if they passed wolf slaughter bills, the federal government would intervene. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is undertaking a 12-month review of the wolves’ status to determine relisting the wolves as endangered. Currently the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks — in desperate need of reform — has decided to allow anyone with a license to kill 20 wolves, 10 by shooting and 10 by trapping. Our state is sanctioning the torture and eradication of animals of tremendous intelligence and beauty. Destroying packs, which will lead to more livestock depredation, is designed to make wolves the cultural enemy.

But it’s not just Republicans who can hang their hat on this slaughter. If you examine the process, you can’t avoid seeing the handiwork of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. It is Sen. Tester who moved to delist wolves and return them to state control in 2011, an effort that has proven to be a disaster. But Tester has long seen his tough reelections dependent on killing wolves, not thriving wildlife. His actions against wolves are a disgrace and deserve more sunshine and less double talk.

Many people I have spoken with believe wolf protection flows through the Interior Department. That is true to a certain extent, but it seems clear that the Interior Secretary would like to reinstate protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho. The problem seems to be coming from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency that will soon have as its director a person shepherded by Jon Tester — Martha Williams, former director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Williams’ reign at FWP showed little support for wolves and more talk than action about moving the agency out of the stone age and into the real world of allowing species to be self-regulating. There was no action to curb the rampant power of the NRA and trophy hunting and trapping organizations that control the agency and directly fund its narrow mission.

Now, thanks to Tester, Williams will be appointed director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after only a few years in wildlife management. The reason is simple; Tester does not want wolves placed back in protection. Tester’s refusal to meet with constituents on this seems based on the mistaken belief that he understands the will of people across Montana on the issue of wolves.

Tester does not understand the love for, emotion and passion that people bring to the table in their support of wolves. His written responses to constituents are tone deaf to concerns. He ignores the financial power wolves generate for Montana.

It’s not easy to be hard on a senator who has done so much for Montana. His votes on infrastructure, health care and many important issues have been bold and important, but his efforts to stop the protection of wolves need to be challenged.

Wildlife is the real treasure of the Treasure State, and wolves are valuable not only economically and environmentally, but also for disease control. Chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis are on the rise. Can we really afford to destroy wolves, the only known defense?

Most Montanans, including ranchers, find the wolf slaughter repugnant. The time has come for leadership that allows wolves to coexist.

Senator Tester, this is your chance to get right with wolves.

Stephen Capra is executive director of Footloose Montana.

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Hearing Update – Wild Horse Education

Wild Horse Education

EFFECTIVE ADVOCATES FOR PUBLIC LANDS, PUBLIC HORSES

Sunday, November 14th, 2021|

Hearing Update

By Laura Leigh on

This article is an updated version of the action we asked you to begin last February; push for a real hearing into The BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program to address the underlying corruption that continues to derail any attempt at actual management.

We have gotten word that it is very likely we will see some type of Congressional hearing into the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. 

A “hearing” is only as effective as what Congress “hears” and from whom.  We must delve into the corruption the program sits on, the same corrupt hands will drive the program.

We continue to INVITE you to read the following action item and, if you agree with what we are asking for, send it to your representatives. We are asking that a real hearing, not one stacked with those that participated in “Ten Years to AML,” give testimony. (Always read the actual action item you are signing. Many “sign-on letters” use lead in lines that mislead you on what you are actually sending. A lead in might talk about abuse at roundups, low population levels, livestock damage. However, the action item might just say “increase immunocontraception” without including any of the items in the lead-in. Read all action items before you sign.)

The letter is a simple click and send.  You can participate CLICK HERE.

After you send your letter, call your representatives. 

Pigeon fever in holding, 2021. Sick young colt in the stud pen trying to hold his own and survive disease. 

Until we begin to address the flagrant and intentional minimization of the wild horse/burro as a public resource to suit industry, nothing will change. Industry will accept any form of population growth suppression from removal, fertility control, slaughter. They wont even accept actual terminology for management of a living creature like ” preserving critical habitat.”

Will that hearing be hijacked by the “Path Forward” participants as it was before? (you can read the original “Ten Years to AML” HERE, later renamed “Path Forward”). It is highly probable that the hearing will again be populated with the same big dollar faces as the last hearing; many of whom claim to be on-ground, involved in fights they never participated in but observed from afar, and misleading Congress and the public that fertility control diminishes need for capture. In fact, in some areas it increases the “chopper in the air” to capture simply to retreat wild horses with a substance. (Owyhee is an example of an operation to “maintain AML and increase immunocontraception.” At Owyhee 2021, 27 wild horses died.)

Since that hearing, BLM incorporated the “Path Forward” into the 2020 plan. Congress increased funding. In 2021, we saw additional funding proposed for “grants” to fund capture, fertility control. (We wanted to do water and range improvements and were told they were accepting proposals for capture, fertility control and “adoptions.”)

We have seen the year that includes the largest number of wild horses/burros captured since the 1971 Act was passed. This was done following the 2020 plan to maintain AML and increase fertility control. Places like Surprise, that have not been captured in a decade, were also on the list to “maintain AML and increase immunocontraception;” 21 died at Surprise.

Electric shock used to speed up loading. Wild horses do not like the cattle chute with overhead bars used by this contractor (not an equine chute). Instead of BLM requiring this contractor use equipment designed for equines, wild horses face the “hot shot.”

While fertility control may be a valid tool of management, only after it is actually justified by range data evaluated in as Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP), it is not management. Skipping a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) and jumping right to a “gather plan” is gutting the public out of any conversation surrounding management and making a mockery of the pretense of actually managing wild horses as part of a system of interlocking management plans. Wild horses are simply removed to an AML created, employed, purported, based on the management plans for everyone BLM actually serves.

The following is from the article we published at the beginning of this legislative session to explain why we are asking you to ask for a hearing. This information can also aide you as you address your legislators. PLEASE remember asking for “more immunocontraception” first (or only) might be an easy thing to do, but it solidifies the notion in the minds of your reps that “overpopulation” is the problem. Doing that? buys you another year like just 2021. We will also see an acceleration of everything you have seen in 2021, in 2022. Congress is set to throw additional funding into the “2020 plan” to increase, essentially, what you have just seen at Owyhee, for the 2022 budget. The 2023 budget debate begins in about 45 days. 

The following article explains why we are asking you to take the action asking for a hearing and the type of hearing we want you to ask for. Info taken from an article published with the original alert. 

Wild horses are a multifaceted public lands resource, creating the necessity for a multifaceted approach to advocating for them. 

When dealing with legislators (when you call or write a letter) and asking for them to vote on a bill, like it or not, you have entered the ring of politics. Just like commenting on an EA for a proposed roundup, you need to know the terrain and be specific in the words you choose.

click to download pdf

A good place to start educating your legislators (for the next budget debate beginning in January) is the “BLM Report to Congress from 2020.” (If you have not read that report you can see it here.)

In 2018 Congress rejected what BLM had presented and requested a new report. The 2020 report did not get as much “push back” as the 2018 report as those urging Congress to obligate the taxpayer to buy a single substance (PZP) were very effective at getting the public to push simply for that substance. In 2020 Congress gave BLM a bit over 15 million  in additional funds to implement “non-lethal” population growth suppression tools in 2021. In 2021 they have added another $11 million.

The 2020 report (plan) still stands as the agency baseline for the budget debate today. The debate has essentially ended for 2022. The 2023 debate begins January 2022.  (please remember the federal government works on a fiscal year that begins in Oct; fiscal 2022 begins Oct 2021).

Page 1-8 of the “BLM 2020 plan” is essentially a press release that repeats the copy/paste of their interpretation of their authority, a copy/paste of the beginning of almost every roundup that repeats assertions of range data and incorporates the “Ten Years to AML” backdoor deal with large corporate interests that was run, without public input or scrutiny, since 2015.

Not until we get to page 9, does BLM begin to present any assertion of a report based on how they prioritize and fund the program:

  1. Removals (2.5 pages)
  2. Population Growth Suppression, including sterilization (3 pages)
  3. Private Care Placement, the new name for adoption/sale (2 pages)
  4. Euthanasia (1 sentence)
  5. Sale Without Limits, slaughter (1 sentence)
  6. Off-Range Corrals, or Long-Term Holding (4 pages)
  7. Resource Monitoring (1/2 page)
  8. Population Survey (1/2 page)
  9. Herd Management Area Plan Development (1/2 page)
  10. Research (1/2 page)
  11. Rangeland Restoration and Rehabilitation (1/2 page)
  12. Oversight (2 sentences)

Then, on page 24, we are presented with a couple of paragraphs in a “Conclusory” statement that continues to present photos without context. If you had the context of every single picture BLM uses in this report you would see the failures run deep in field offices that have used “blame the horse and remove” for 50 years.

When you get “push back” talking to you representatives aides? we suggest you bring up the report. 16 pages. 16 pages is what BLM presented to Congress on the entire workings program wide. 16 pages is what this administration is continuing to base “management” practices on. 16 pages written by multi-million dollar corporate lobbyists in an “agreement.” 

However, without even reading any of the content you can see why the program has failed. Roundups, and population growth suppression, are the last phase of on-range management, yet, BLM always prioritizes remove and stockpile.  Oversight and management planning for our herds should come first and  provide the most in-depth information to base every other item on this list. Management planning creates the baseline for all other actions and oversight of planning and executed actions makes sure that the agency operates with transparency and inclusivity.

Simply changing the order of current priorities, making Oversight and HMAPs the fist step, the program could begin to move out of the mistakes of the past that have led to an absurd program that is fiscally irresponsible to the taxpayer and morally bankrupt to the public interest and resource (wild horses are a public resource under law, not a permitted use for private profit).

As a result of this report, and those “in the deal,” for 2021 spending Congress simply awarded BLM an additional $15 million to utilize “non-lethal” population growth suppression.

Video we did to help you understand a bit about why the HMAP sitting at the bottom of the current priority list, is absurd. Without a plan, the rest is based on assertion, highly corruptible and bound to fail. (more here)  https://videopress.com/embed/MnrO8O0P?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1

There was no hearing on the merits of the report, nothing. We did not have a hearing because the big corporate groups had the public bombarding Congress as they simply asked for more funding for fertility control. All of he funding was based on the assertions in the 2020 report and those assertions solidified as the focus became “population suppression tools.”

The debate for spending in 2022 has already kicked off. That debate leaves off where the last one stood; all of it begins with accepting the assertions and lack of actual data in the 2020 report. 

When the Department of Interior handed Congress a report on two National Monuments in New Mexico, Senator Martin Heinrich grilled BLM on that report.

The report was not about the entire National Monument system, as the report on wild horses and burros is. The report on wild horses is not about a couple of HMAs, it is about the entire program.  https://www.youtube.com/embed/ljW9R_4qNoA?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&start=4&wmode=transparent

John Ruhs, former NV State Director now serving as the Deputy Director of BLM, says he was not involved with crafting the report on the two monuments when pressed by Senator Heinrich.

However, Ruhs was deeply involved with the “Ten Years to AML” crowd, the off-limits to the public “Utah Summit” and both the 2018 and 2020 reports on the Wild Horse and Burro Program.

When Ruhs was quickly whisked out of the Deputy chair after this hearing, and sent to be the Director of BLM in Idaho, former Chief of Chris Stewart, Brian Steed, took his place. Stewarts office ran the “Ten Years to AML” (later called Path Forward) backdoor corporate deal with Steed as his Chief of Staff.

Wild horses are tied DIRECTLY to the National Monument Agenda. In fact, they appear first on the “wish list” of those pushing the agenda. (you can read the timeline of the context of the above schedule memo in an article we wrote in 2019, HERE.)

Why didn’t anyone in Congress grill BLM over their report on wild horses? The factual errors are just as egregious as those in the report on the 2 National Monuments. The public deserves more from Congress than simply bending to the will of well-funded corporate lobbyists that all benefit from the subsidized programs created by the agency.

We INVITE you to read the following action item and, if you agree with what we are asking for, send it to your representatives. We are asking that a real hearing, not one stacked with those that participated in “Ten Years to AML,” give testimony. 

The letter is a simple click and send.  You can participate, CLICK HERE.

After sending your letter, we urge you to call your Congressional representative HERE.

We need real change. We can not get real change if we base it in fiction or simply create change to suit what industry will accept. This is not management, it is politics. Politics that are destroying the range and your wild horse and burro herds. 


Help keep us in the field, in the courts and in the fight. Our teams need your support. 

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Our WHEStorefront added a new collection, including a calendar, in time for the holidays. You can see the new collection HERE.  

You can support WHE on Amazon Smile as you shop by choosing Wild Horse Education as your charity of choice.

You can get your ticket for our virtual Zoom event; including a special guest and a “question and answer” portion. More HERE. https://videopress.com/embed/LiwYskrU?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1


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The life of a wildlife photographer

By Bonnie Malloy Senior Attorney


Here’s something I don’t want to report and you probably don’t want to read: So far this year, 24 endangered Florida panthers have died — 18 of them on roadways — an average of more than one a week. Remember that only an estimated 120 to 230 adult Florida panthers exist on Earth, all of them in southwest Florida. Just in the last week of September, three endangered panthers were killed on roadways in Lee and Collier counties — a kitten just 3 to 4 months old, a three-year-old male and a female that was 10 to 12 years old.

It’s hard to process this ongoing tragedy along with all the other things in the world. But we can’t let our despair at seeing so many panthers killed by vehicles obscure the fact that there are concrete actions we can insist our government leaders take to change the future for panthers.

And we have a special opportunity right now.

Floridian Shannon Estenoz was tapped by President Joe Biden to be assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, in charge of the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Estenoz (formerly with the Everglades Foundation) is among top U.S. officials in charge of protecting endangered species. How significant it would be to witness a Floridian in the federal government work to save the panther, our official state animal.

Here are a few key actions we should insist that local and federal officials like Estenoz take to stop these spiraling panther deaths:

  • Strengthen federal protections for Florida panthers under the Endangered Species Act to make sure they aren’t harmed by the new roads and traffic that will come with massive housing and commercial developments now planned in panther habitat.
  • Revisit the ill-conceived decision to open the 25,560-acre Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to more people. Allowing turkey hunting, new hiking and biking trails, boardwalks and more infrastructure would only put Florida panthers in further peril.
  • Deny permits that threaten panthers, including wetlands destruction and oil drilling permits that are now being sought in the Big Cypress National Preserve near Everglades National Park, one of the last wild places panthers call home.
  • Stop the extremely questionable, recently exposed arrangement where landowners in panther territory have been paying staff costs for public employees at the very U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office that’s charged with reviewing their development plans. This needs to be investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Inspector General.
  • Return federal wetlands permitting authority to the federal government rather than allowing Florida to give developers a free pass to harm endangered species, including Florida panthers.

Our state animal has never been in greater danger, and the constant toll of panther deaths on highways is heartbreaking evidence that we are not doing enough. It’s painfully clear that now is the time to double down on protections for Florida panthers and ensure these magnificent animals survive and thrive.

It was devastating to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently declare 22 birds, fish and other wildlife on the endangered species list as extinct. Isn’t it our clear duty to future generations to make sure the Florida panther doesn’t meet the same fate?

This article originally appeared in the Tampa Bay Times.

https://earthjustice.org/from-the-experts/2021-october/5-things-we-can-do-now-to-save-the-florida-panther?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_term=feed

Petition: Stop the kangaroo slaughter

 

 

Kangaroos are one of the world’s most iconic, loved and unique animals. Yet here in Australia, their home, they are either maligned and demonised as pests or viewed as a resource to be exploited.

Most Australians are unaware that our kangaroos are victims of the largest commercial slaughter of land based wildlife in the world. They have virtually no protections under the law, with tens of thousands of joeys being violently beaten or decapitated after watching their parents die a slow and painful death.

Recent changes to the NSW licensing regulations have led to a doubling in the number of kangaroos killed by the non-commercial industry, despite questions around the number of kangaroos remaining in the wild.

These threats coupled with the drought and mega fires killing and wounding thousands of kangaroos as their habitat is destroyed, are pushing Kangaroos to the brink.

“The mouth of a kangaroo can be blown off and the kangaroo can escape to die of shock and starvation. Forearms can be blown off, as can ears, eyes and noses. Stomachs can be hit expelling the contents with the kangaroo still alive.” – David Nicholls, former kangaroo shooter

READ THE FACTS ON KANGAROOS HERE

This is a national disgrace and finally the rest of the world is watching. Europe, the world’s biggest importer of kangaroo products is considering a ban based on both welfare and health concerns, after Russia did so in 2014. We are confident that other states in the USA will follow California’s lead in enacting a full legislative ban on the cruel trade in kangaroo products.

It is time we forced our government to act and protect these gentle and unique animals who have every right to live their lives free from fear, cruelty and suffering.

Sign the petition calling on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to hold a Parliamentary Inquiry into the horrific slaughter of one of the world’s most iconic animals: the Kangaroo.

To: Gladys Berejiklian, NSW Premier
From: [Your Name]

We the undersigned petitioners request that the Premier urgently hold an inquiry into the impact of farming practices and commercial and non-commercial hunting and slaughter on kangaroo welfare and sustainable populations.

This petition of citizens of New South Wales draws to the attention of the Premier that:
• Kangaroos are facing species extinction in NSW due to a combination of
hunting, slaughter and habitat loss through land clearing;
• The current NSW Kangaroo Management Plan (KMP) 2017-2021 is based on an
inaccurate formula which over-estimates kangaroo numbers;
• Under the KMP, the commercial industry is allocated a ‘harvest’ quota. In recent
years, hunters have only been able to slaughter less than twenty per cent of
their quota;
• The inherent cruelty – kangaroos are rarely killed with one shot to the head, as
dictated by the code of practice. It is estimated 855,000 dependent young
kangaroos are either clubbed to death or are left to starve after their mothers
have been slaughtered.
• Decapitation or bludgeoning to death of joeys is enshrined in the code of
practice as being the most ‘humane’ way to deal with the joeys orphaned by this
brutal industry; and
• In 2018 the NSW Liberal National Government relaxed the licensing
requirements which made it easier for farmers and others to shoot kangaroos
on private property.

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-the-kangaroo-slaughter

Petition: Support the Big Cat Public Safety Act

www.worldanimalprotection.us

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is a critical animal protection bill that would protect thousands of big cats from suffering. Big cats belong in the wild, not in someone’s backyard. In her natural habitat, a tiger’s territory stretches for miles. She can’t thrive when she’s chained in a basement or confined to a barren cage. It’s time for our elected officials to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law.

Urge your federal legislators to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. 

Big cats such as lions and tigers are wild animals and belong in the wild. Yet today, there are more tigers in captivity in the United States than in the wild. Individuals and families often purchase them as babies to be kept as pets, ignoring just how large the animals grow. As a result, many are left to waste away in cages in backyards and basements. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would help end this cruelty. 

The Big Cat Public Safety Act amends the Captive Wild Safety Act to prohibit the private possession of lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrids of these species. People who already possess these animals may keep them but must register them so first responders and animal control officers are aware of their presence in the community. 

What the Big Cat Public Safety Act will do 

  • Prohibits the private possession of big cats  
  • People who currently possess big cats must register them with local first responders and animal control officers  
  • Prohibits exhibitors (such as circuses and zoos) from allowing direct contact between the public and big cats, including activities like cub petting and bottle feeding  
  • Prohibits private individuals from breeding lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of these species 
Big Cat Public Safety Act

Did you know…

  • Businesses like roadside zoos that profit from offering cubs for photo opportunities or petting can legally call themselves sanctuaries or rescues  
  • Once they’re too big for cub petting, many of the cubs are sold into the wild pet trade while others end up on the black market to be sold for their body parts 
  • Ongoing inbreeding and cruel confinement results in numerous health problems for big cats, including deformed paws, hip dysplasia, and cataracts 
  • Since 1990, there have been nearly 400 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Five children and 20 adults lost their lives and others lost limbs or suffered traumatic injuries 

https://www.worldanimalprotection.us/support-big-cat-public-safety-act

Ever wonder where Jack O’Lanterns go after Halloween

Hawaiian Common Gallinule (‘Alae ‘Ula)

abcbirds.org

Like the ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk) and ‘Ua‘u (Hawaiian Petrel), the Alae ‘Ula, or Hawaiian Common Gallinule, is revered in folklore. According to legend, this bird brought fire from the gods to the people, burning its white forehead red in the process. In fact, its Hawaiian name, Alae ‘Ula, means “burnt forehead!”

The ‘Alae ‘Ula is one of 12 subspecies of Common Gallinule, which is found worldwide. (It differs slightly from the more familiar Common Gallinule in having a reddish blush on the front of its legs and a more extensive facial shield.)

The Hawaiian Common Gallinule was once found throughout the Hawaiian archipelago, but now occurs only on the islands of Kaua‘i and O‘ahu—mainly due to loss of habitat and invasive species such as domestic cats.

Hawaiian Common Gullinule map, ABC
Surveying a Subspecies

‘Alae ‘Ula are territorial and defend an area of wetland ranging from a quarter-acre to a half-acre. Although not as secretive as other members of the rail family, such as the elusive Black Rail, this gallinule’s preferred habitat—dense aquatic vegetation—can complicate efforts to accurately estimate its population size.

Both sexes appear similar, although males are larger, and both give voice to chicken-like cackles and croaks. The birds cannot fly for about 25 days each year during their molting period, usually from June-September, which increases their vulnerability to predation.


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Feeding Behind a Shield

The ‘Alae ‘Ula’s striking red frontal shield is thought to protect its face as the bird forages through dense vegetation for grasses, seeds, mollusks, and aquatic insects and their larvae. The shield may also be used in courtship display and territorial defense.

‘Alae ‘Ula are opportunistic feeders. They may take food from the water’s surface, dip or dive underwater, or turn over aquatic vegetation as they seek prey.

Platform Nesting

‘Alae ‘Ula can nest year-round, but the majority of nesting occurs from March to August and may depend on suitable water levels. This bird’s platform-style nest is built from twigs, stems, and leaves, with the male collecting materials and the female arranging them at the nest site. The parents frequently incorporate a ramp on one side to allow chicks to easily clamber in and out.

Hawaiian Common Gallinule, Michael Walther

Hawaiian Common Gallinule by Michael Walther

Female gallinules lay a clutch of around five eggs, which hatch after two to three weeks of incubation by both sexes. Like Wilson’s Plover and Piping Plover chicks, ‘Alae ‘Ula hatchlings are precocial: They can walk and swim within a few hours of hatching. However, they depend on their parents for protection and food for several more weeks.

Rekindling the Fire-bringer

The Hawaiian Common Gallinule was listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967; it’s also listed as endangered at the state level. The filling, dredging, and draining of wetlands in Hawai’i has greatly reduced the amount of habitat available for the gallinule, limiting their distribution and abundance.

Introduced predators such as cats, mongooses, bullfrogs, and turtles are another problem for the ground-feeding birds. And climate change, particularly rising sea level, threatens the  species’ low-lying coastal habitat.

ABC recently joined with several partner groups to ask Congress to support a new conservation effort in Hawai‘i that would provide increased funding for endangered endemic birds. Together with our partners, we’re undertaking many other conservation efforts to help prevent extinction of Hawaiian birds.


https://abcbirds.org/bird/hawaiian-common-gallinule/

If you live in the UK please sign the petition

A Win For Animal Protection

Tell Scott Morrison to stop killing kangaroos – Action Network

actionnetwork.org

Action Network

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Kangaroos are one of Australia’s most iconic, loved and unique animals. They are also the victims of the largest commercial slaughter of land-based wildlife on the planet.

Last year alone 2 million kangaroos were slaughtered in the cruel commercial kangaroo trade; many were and turned into soccer boots.

“The mouth of a kangaroo can be blown off and the kangaroo can escape to die of shock and starvation. Forearms can be blown off, as can ears, eyes and noses. Stomachs can be hit expelling the contents with the kangaroo still alive.” – David Nicholls, former kangaroo shooter

Every year the State Governments of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland condemn millions of kangaroos to death. Scott Morrison and the Federal Government have the power to stop this horrific slaughter.

The World wept for our wildlife after the 2019 Black Summer bushfires, yet here in Australia it was business as usual for the commercial kangaroo industry.

State and Federal Governments saw no problem with the continued slaughter of kangaroos. Some states including NSW increased their commercial slaughter quotas.

It is time for the Prime Minister and the Federal Government to act and protect these gentle and unique animals who have every right to live their lives free from fear, cruelty and suffering.

To: Prime Minister Scott Morrison
From: [Your Name]

I am calling on you as Prime Minister to stop the slaughter of kangaroos. Last year alone 2 million kangaroos were slaughtered in the cruel commercial kangaroo trade; many were and turned into soccer boots.

Every year the State Governments of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland condemn millions of kangaroos to death, you as Prime Minister have the power to stop the slaughter.

The World wept for our wildlife after the 2019 Black Summer bushfires, yet here in Australia it was business as usual for the commercial kangaroo industry.
State and Federal Governments saw no problem with the continued slaughter of kangaroos. Some states including NSW increased their commercial slaughter quotas.

The kangaroo industry is unspeakably cruel. Every year, an estimated 855,000 dependent young kangaroos are killed or left to starve after their mothers are killed for the commercial kangaroo industry. Orphaned joeys are decapitated or bludgeoned to death, as dictated by the National Code of practice, and they do not get counted in total kill numbers.

The commercial kangaroo slaughter is a national disgrace and the rest of the world is watching. Many countries and companies are reconsidering their use of kangaroo products. Europe, the world’s biggest importer of kangaroo products is considering a ban based on both welfare and health concerns, after Russia did so in 2014. We are confident that other states in the USA will follow California’s lead in enacting a full legislative ban on the cruel trade in kangaroo products.

I implore you to stop the commercial slaughter and protect kangaroos.

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-scott-morrison-to-stop-killing-kangaroos

Victory for owls, plus new climate advocacy

Great gray owl
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Victory for great gray owls and forests in Oregon!
We won a recent victory for forests and great gray owls in Oregon. The Griffin Half Moon timber project would have logged more than 900 acres home to perhaps the largest and most well-known population of great gray owls in southwest Oregon. We successfully argued the Bureau of Land Management’s assessment did not consider the effects of logging on this at-risk owl. We are elated to have protected not only the forest, but also this iconic owl.

Colorado

Opposing the Biden administration’s plans to offer 734,000 acres of public lands to oil and gas
We filed formal legal objections to the Biden administration’s plans to offer 734,000 acres of public lands for oil and gas leasing. Oil and gas in the proposed leases contain up to 246 million tons of climate pollution, as much as 62 coal-fired power plants emit in one year. Public lands should be off limits for leasing because of the government’s failure to assess and avoid harm to land, water, communities, and endangered species from the fossil fuel industry’s climate pollution. In January, the Biden administration paused new oil and gas leasing pending a review of the program, yet since then has approved more than 2,800 new permits to drill. Learn More

NewMexico

Fossil-fueled hydrogen in New Mexico is a climate threat, not a solution
WELC and other New Mexico community, environmental, and justice organizations warned state and federal lawmakers of the risks of diving head-first into fossil-fueled hydrogen projects. Our letter provides guidance on the safeguards that must be enacted before hydrogen projects are considered in the San Juan Basin, and New Mexico more broadly. Hydrogen from fossil gas presents significant climate and health dangers. New Mexico must prioritize climate legislation to light the pathway to benefit all of New Mexico’s workers and families. We cannot drill our way out of the climate emergency. Further, hydrogen is a risky bet of taxpayer resources that would further entrench the power of fossil fuel corporations. Learn More Your support makes all our work possible. Thank you!

Donate Now

Western Environmental Law Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the western U.S. Donations are tax-deductible as allowable by law. WELC does not rent, sell, or trade your contact information. Photo credits iStock.com: Owl by /mirceax, Colorado by /AndrewSoundarajan, New Mexico by /Dean_Fikar.

https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Victory-for-owls–plus-new-climate-advocacy.html?soid=1102253797647&aid=Doj9SNIdI1k

Happy 40th Birthday, Ndume

  Today (Oct. 10, 2021) gorilla Ndume turns 40 and we are sending him birthday wishes and love. We are happy to report that recently he is forming close bonds with females Chewie and Mara in his family group at the Cincinnati Zoo. For us, this is a big bright spot in the many changes he faced by being moved from The Gorilla Foundation sanctuary to a zoo. 

He has been deemed to be in good health by the team there which is great news to all of us who cared for him for close to 30 years. 

We know he is well-loved by his caregivers at the Cincinnati Zoo, and we miss seeing, interacting and communicating with him every day. 

We wish there could have been a way to create a natural family group for him here at the sanctuary with his human friends, familiar surroundings and greater autonomy too, but that proved impossible to arrange. He continues to receive excellent care, and we get to visit him twice per year to let him know we love and remember him. 

Please enjoy the above tribute video of Ndume on his milestone birthday and join us in sending him some birthday love. 

Thank you! 

Penny

Penny Patterson, Ph.D. 
President and Director of Research
The Gorilla Foundation / Koko.org

Koko.org

The Gorilla Foundation
P.O. Box 620530    Woodside, CA  94062
Phone: 1-800-ME-GO-APE     Email:  info@koko.org
Nonprofit 501c3 Federal Tax ID:  94-238-6151
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I guess one is too many because they’re endangered!

The Majestic Duo

Great News! New Jersey’s Bear Hunt is Cancelled!


Black bears have been spared from violent deaths in New Jersey! The bloody, highly controversial annual hunts will not take place this year, and signs point to non-lethal management techniques moving forward.  

The ​​New Jersey Fish and Game Council updated the state’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan (CBBMP), which required a signature of approval from the Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Shawn M. LaTourette. Without his signature on the updated plan, the Fish and Game Council could not schedule a bear hunt. The updated CBBMP expired on June 21, 2021, therefore no bear hunts are allowed in the state in 2021. 

DEP Commissioner LaTourette was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy, who has publicly denounced the killing of bears for sport, and has emphasized “developing a new black bear policy that promotes public safety and welfare while protecting important wildlife with a focus on non-lethal management techniques.”

We applaud New Jersey for this shift toward the humane treatment of bears, and hope this decision serves as an example for additional states. Congratulations, New Jersey!

https://www.idausa.org/campaign/wild-animals-and-habitats/latest-news/new-jersey-bear-hunt/

‘Like nothing in my lifetime’: researchers race to unravel the mystery of Australia’s dying frogs

A white-lipped tree frog

Show captionA white-lipped tree frog. Scientists are trying to unravel the cause of thousands of frog deaths in eastern Australia. Photograph: Liam Driver/Newspix / Rex FeaturEnvironmental investigations

amp.theguardian.com

Lisa Cox

After asking for public help with their investigations, scientists have received thousands of reports and specimens of dead, shrivelled frogs

In the middle of Sydney’s lockdown, scientist Jodi Rowley has been retrieving frozen dead frogs from her doorstep.

Occasionally one will arrive dried and shrivelled up in the post.

She’ll pack them in ice in an esky to be taken to her lab at the Australian Museum, where even more samples – green tree frogs, striped marsh frogs and the invasive cane toad among them – are waiting in a freezer for genetic testing.

Rowley and her team, along with scientists at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo and a forensic unit in the NSW department of planning, industry and environment, are trying to solve the mystery of what is killing Australia’s frogs.

Since late July, they’ve collected 1,200 records of dead or dying frogs, about 70% of them in New South Wales and 22% in Queensland.

“I know we’re dealing with our own pandemic but frogs are also dealing with a pandemic and whatever is going on right now is awful,” Rowley said.

“It’s like nothing in my lifetime that I’m aware of.”

One of the shrivelled frogs Jodi Rowley has been sent

One of the shrivelled frogs Australia Museum researcher Jodi Rowley has been sent. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

‘It’s really broken our hearts’

Rowley, a conservation biologist specialising in amphibians, is the lead scientist at the Australian Museum’s FrogID, a citizen science project that for the past four years has focused largely on recording the calls of Australia’s many frog species.

But its work shifted after Rowley did an ABC radio interview in late July to talk about dead green tree frogs that were being found around Scotts Head on the NSW mid north coast.

After that, Rowley started receiving emails about frogs in similar condition being found in other parts of the country.

A week later she and Karrie Rose, the head of Australian Registry of Wildlife Health, wrote a piece for the Conversation that asked people who spotted sick or dying amphibians to make a report through the FrogID email.

They received 160 emails in 24 hours. That’s grown to more than 2,000 since.

“It’s been quite devastating to be at the receiving end of some of these emails. I can only imagine how hard it is for the people out there who are seeing these frogs.”

Rowley at work in her lab

Rowley at work in her lab. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

One of those reports came from Yvonne Hulbert, who runs a bed and breakfast on an acreage on Macleay Island near Brisbane, where there is a thriving frog population.

Over the past few months they’ve found browning and dead frogs along their properties.

“They go a fawny beige colour then turn brown. They seem to get dry and they become emaciated and then shrivel and become skeletons,” Hulbert said.

“We recognise the same frogs and they just decline in health and size and eventually their eyes dull and they just die. It’s really sad.”

Gail Wilson-Lutter and her husband have lived in Meerschaum Vale in the NSW northern rivers for 36 years. Every night frogs would come into the kitchen via a gap in the roof.

“We keep what we call the frog-cuzzi, a little pool for them to swim in, and we love having them here because they kill spiders and pests.”

But in recent months, Wilson-Lutter noticed frogs were leaving loose skin in their little pool and others were changing colour or turning up dead.

“It’s really broken our hearts, because we love our frogs,” Wilson-Lutter says.

Too early to draw conclusions

Over the past two-and-a-half months, the scientists have collected reports of 31 different species affected in almost every state and territory.

Of those, 30 species are native – including endangered frogs such as green and golden bell frogs, southern bell frogs and the giant barred frog. The one invasive species is the cane toad.

Sixty per cent of the frogs found are green tree frogs, something likely explained by the fact they are a common species found in and around people’s homes.

The frogs that are found alive are often lethargic and emaciated, with red bellies and coloured patches on their skin.

When frogs die, they shrivel up quickly, so many have been found dark brown and withered.

Jane Hall at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo

Jane Hall at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

“It’s exquisitely difficult to work with frogs because they decompose so quickly and are a cryptic species – meaning they’re difficult to find,” says Jane Hall, who works with Rose at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo.

The two scientists have been conducting necropsies on frog carcasses at a pathology facility at Taronga zoo that acts as a morgue and a lab.

They dissect the frogs, looking for any indicators of disease, and take samples from their liver, kidneys, blood and stomach content if they have any.

Over at the Australian Museum, Rowley and her team are looking at the animals on a molecular level.

Much like a Covid-19 test, they swab the frogs – usually on their belly and legs – and also take a small skin sample. They then run DNA tests looking for pathogens that might indicate a virus or a fungus.

At present, the number one candidate for what has caused the mass mortality event is chytrid fungus, which has been responsible for declines of more than 500 amphibian species globally.

It is more likely to take hold during winter months, when frogs’ immune systems slow down.

Some of the tests have returned a positive result, but Rowley and Hall both say it is too early to draw conclusions.

Covid-19 lockdowns have also hampered the ability to do investigations in the field.

The freezer containing some of the samples Jodi Rowley has been sent

The freezer containing some of the samples Jodi Rowley has been sent. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

The researchers are working with a network of vets around Australia, some of whom are storing frozen frogs until they can be delivered after the lockdowns.

Others will conduct a basic necropsy and keep the rest of the carcass in a fixative to be examined microscopically later on.

Friends and family members are also storing frozen frogs that have been dropped in mailboxes by people from their communities.

Separately, a forensic team is running toxicology tests looking for things like pesticides, heavy metals or other environmental toxins.

There has been widespread pesticide use as a result of the recent mouse plague. Hall says it is unlikely to be the cause, but it needs to be ruled out.

When the lockdowns end, the scientists will have more access to more samples and locations to expand their work, do targeted surveys, and build a larger syndromic picture to work out what the common threads are.

If it is chytrid fungus, Rowley says it would be the largest such mortality event in Australia in more than a decade.

“The question then becomes why would it be impacting so much more now?” she says.

“Whether it’s to do with climate, the very cold winter, or it’s interacting with another stressor such as not enough food or pollution. It could be a new strain or something from overseas.”

Hall says there is no better example of how a pathogen can change than the current pandemic.

“Pathogens are always looking for ways they can improve how they work and move in animals,” she says.

“Chytrid can change, so we want to see if it’s the chytrid our frogs are used to being exposed to or if it’s a different kind of chytrid.”

She says another important and still to be answered question is whether the animals are dying of or withthe disease – that is, if it is just a contributing factor and other environmental stressors of recent years such as droughts, fires and climate change have played a role. Alternatively, the cause could be something else entirely, like a novel pathogen.

“Once we get more of an understanding of these things we can go to the next level and see how far it’s spread and what long-term effect it might have on vulnerable amphibian populations across Australia,” she says.

“They’re probably the best indicator of environmental health. It’s important we don’t ignore them.

“They absorb the environment through their skin so if something is off … the frogs will let us know.”

Anyone who spots an unwell or dead frog is encouraged to contact the FrogID project email on calls@frogid.net.au with the location and photos if possible.

https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/19/like-nothing-in-my-lifetime-researchers-race-to-unravel-the-mystery-of-australias-dying-frogs?__twitter_impression=true

Lions Now Gorillas Test Positive COVID-19

Coalition proposes to scrap recovery plans for 200 endangered species and habitats

The Tasmanian devil

amp.theguardian.com

Lisa Cox

Show captionThe Tasmanian devil is among 200 endangered species and habitats that would lose their recovery plan under Coalition proposal. Photograph: Michal Čížek/AFP/Getty ImagesConservation

The Morrison government has proposed scrapping recovery plans for almost 200 endangered species and habitats including the Tasmanian devil, the whale shark and the endangered glossy-black cockatoo populations on Kangaroo Island, one of the worst-affected areas in the 2019-20 bushfires.

Environment groups have decried the move as a backward step less than 12 months after a statutory review of Australia’s national environmental laws found successive governments had failed to protect the country’s unique wildlife.

Recovery plans are documents that set out actions needed to stop the extinction of species. Ministers are legally bound not to make decisions that are inconsistent with them.

Since changes were made to legislation in 2007 they have been increasingly replaced with what’s known as a conservation advice, a similar document but which does not have the same legal force under national law.

Guardian Australia has previously reported that fewer than 40% of listed threatened species have a recovery plan. A further 10% of all those listed have been identified as requiring a recovery plan but those plans haven’t been developed or are unfinished. Even more plans are out of date.

The federal environment department revealed last year it had not finalised a single recovery plan for threatened species in nearly 18 months and more than 170 were overdue. All listed species, including those requiring a recovery plan, have a conservation advice.

This year, the government asked the independent threatened species scientific committee (TSSC), which advises it on endangered wildlife, to review recovery plans for 914 threatened species and habitats to determine which should continue to have a recovery plan and which could just have a conservation advice.

The committee provided advice that 676 no longer required a recovery plan.

The government is responding to the committee’s recommendations in stages and on Friday published for public consultation the first tranche of 157 animals and plants and 28 ecological communities for which it proposes scrapping recovery plans.

They include the vulnerable green and golden bell frog and the spectacled flying-fox, which had its threat status upgraded to endangered after heatwaves in 2019.

Among the ecological communities is the critically endangered Cumberland plain woodland, one of the most under pressure woodlands in the country as a result of urban development in western Sydney.

It has been identified as requiring a recovery plan since 2009 but no plan has ever been finalised.

Labor’s environment spokeswoman, Terri Butler, said on Friday “Scott Morrison has given up on saving iconic Australian species.”

“The 2019-20 bushfires killed or displaced 3 billion animals and his response now is to cut 157 recovery plans.”

The Greens’ environment spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, said the government was seeking to rewrite its obligations and was “putting up the white flag on saving our wildlife and native plants”.

“Downgrading the level of obligation on the minister is downgrading the protection of our native animals and species,” she said.

“This is all about letting the minister off the hook – the Morrison government has dropped the ball on protecting our environment and wildlife and now they want to change the rules and responsibilities.”

Helene Marsh, the chair of the threatened species scientific committee, told Guardian Australia that the species and habitats the committee had assessed were those for which recovery plans had expired, were due to expire or were overdue.

She said the committee had carefully considered every plant, animal and habitat and determined that overall about 13% of the country’s wildlife required a recovery plan.

Marsh said recovery planning had been ineffective, with plans often unfunded and actions not implemented.

She said a conservation advice could be as detailed and useful a tool, could be developed more quickly, and rapidly updated after an emergency such as the bushfire disaster.

“We’ve looked at whether a recovery plan will make a difference or not and we’ve looked at every single one in great detail,” she said. “A conservation advice can be updated and in these times of fires and climate change is a much more nimble instrument.”

Marsh told Guardian Australia that the most important reforms the government could make for Australia’s wildlife would be to implement legally binding and detailed national environmental standards that were recommended by the former competition watchdog head, Graeme Samuel, in his review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

She said the committee’s recommendations on which species and habitats should not have recovery plans were based, in part, on whether they were regularly affected by development and therefore triggered the need for a development to be assessed under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

She said the committee had recommended that species that regularly triggered the act retain a recovery plan.

However, the Cumberland Plain woodland, the golden sun moth and the striped legless lizard, which all regularly trigger the need for assessment under the act, all appear on the list of proposed habitats and animals that would no longer require a recovery plan.

Samantha Vine, of Birdlife Australia, said a conservation advice was a good foundational document but was not a robust plan to get species off the path to extinction.

The organisation is concerned about the 19 threatened birds that may no longer require a recovery plan, including the glossy black cockatoo populations of Kangaroo Island and South Australia, the northern masked owl and the Abbott’s Booby.

“We completely see where the threatened species scientific committee is coming from because they are overwhelmed,” Vine said. “But walking away from recovery plans because they’re not functioning as well as they should be is not the right approach in an extinction crisis.”

Brendan Sydes, a lawyer and policy adviser at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said recovery plans were not working as well as they should but the answer was not to abandon them all together.

“Conservation advices are not an adequate replacement for recovery plans, as they are much less rigorous in what they require and don’t have the same legal clout,” he said.

“To virtually give up on recovery planning would be a terrible admission that there is no political will to tackle Australia’s extinction crisis.”

A spokesperson for the environment department said the recommendations were based on “the best planning outcome for the individual threatened entity, and are subject to public consultation prior to any final decision being made”.

“This is the first tranche of public consultation which invites the public to provide feedback on proposed subsequent recovery plan decisions for 185 species and ecological communities,” the spokesperson said.

“Subsequent public consultation periods for lists of other species and ecological communities will be held.”

A spokesperson for the environment minister, Sussan Ley, said: “The proposed changes have been recommended by the independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee and are now available for public consultation.”

https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/18/coalition-plans-to-scrap-recovery-plans-for-200-endangered-species-and-habitats?__twitter_impression=true

Identify Raptors in Flight

www.audubon.org

By Alisa Opar

Raptors are on the move. Now is a great time to get out and see the birds of prey as they migrate south for the winter (click here for a list of 10 awesome places to watch the spectacle).

Seeing the birds on the wing is thrilling—particularly when there are large numbers of them—but it can also be frustrating to try and identify them at various angles and distances.

The challenge: Identify and age these common raptors. Some species appear more than once. Scroll down for a list of all of the species shown, and keep going for the answers.

HINT: Below are all of the species pictured.

American Kestrel

Bald Eagle

Broad-winged Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Merlin

Northern Harrier

Osprey

Peregrine Falcon

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Turkey Vulture

SCROLL DOWN FOR ANSWERS

ANSWERS​

1. Sharp-shinned Hawk, immature: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head. Plumage is difficult to see on distant birds, but 1st-years lack a rufous tone underneath.

2. Bald EagleVery distinct white heads and tails and dark overall. Very large with long, broad wings and yellow legs and bill.

3. American Kestrel: Note pale underside with orangey chest, black spots on belly two black “sideburns” on head, and blue upperwing coverts, orange tail with black tip.

4. Northern Harrier: Very distinct brilliant white underside with a black border on flight feathers. Note long, slim wings and tail, and small head.

5. American Kestrel: Note pale underside with orangey chest, black spots on belly two black “sideburns” on head, and blue upperwing coverts, orange tail with black tip.

6. Turkey Vulture: Blackish overall; reddish head can be difficult to see at a distance but white bill usually glows. Note long, broad, squared-off wings, broad tail, and modified dihedral when gliding.

7. Sharp-shinned Hawk, adult: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head.

8. Broad-winged Hawk, immature: Stocky pointed wings, large head, and short, narrow tail. Pale underside with dark streaking on sides of breast, and indistinct tail pattern with darker tip denote 1st-year. Some (like this bird) have streaks on belly similar to red-tailed.

9. Red-shouldered Hawk, adult: Note somewhat stocky squared-off wings with translucent “commas” along the primaries. Adults have bold black and white bands on wings and tail and a warm reddish underside.

10. Red-shouldered Hawk, immature: Note somewhat stocky squared-off wings with translucent “commas” along the primaries. Pale underside with buffy underwing coverts, and dark, evenly spaced streaking on body denote 1st-year.

11. Northern Harrier: Very distinct brilliant white underside with a black border on flight feathers. Note long, slim wings and tail, and small head.

12. Merlin, adult: Merlin has stockier, more sharply pointed wings, broader, shorter tail, and is “chesty” compared with kestrel. Juvenile and adult female are pale below with heavy, dark streaking, heavily “checkered” underwings, and distinct tail bands. 

13. Northern Harrier, immature: Pale underneath mostly brown flight feathers. Note long, narrow wings and tail (showing bands when spread). Head is small with owl-like facial disc.

14. Red-tailed Hawk: Quintessential broad-winged, short-tailed buteo shape. Plumage is pale underneath with dark patagial bars and bellyband. 

15. Cooper’s Hawk, immature: Pale underneath with dark streaks throughout underbody, and brown head denote 1st-year. Note long wings for an accipiter, large head, and long tail with white tip.

16. Cooper’s Hawk, immature: Pale underneath with dark streaks throughout underbody, and brown head denote 1st-year. Note long wings for an accipiter, large head, and long tail with white tip.

17. Peregrine Falcon, adult: Pale underneath with heavily streaked body, heavily “checkered” underwings, and dark head. Note very long, pointed wings, heavy body, and broad tail and head. Wingtips are less sharply pointed in a full soar.

18. Osprey: Note the dark stripe through the eye, long, dark brown wings, white underside, and a black bill with sharp hook.

19. Sharp-shinned Hawk, adult: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head.

https://www.audubon.org/news/identify-raptors-flight?ms=digital-eng-email-ea-newsletter-engagement_20210915_eng-kids-newsletter_raptors&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=engagement_20210915_eng-kids-newsletter&utm_content=raptors&emci=d6c26761-2b16-ec11-981f-501ac57ba3ed&emdi=6679296b-3116-ec11-981f-501ac57ba3ed&ceid=89005

Leopards on special this week: Get ’em while they’re fresh! – BEN TROVATO

bentrovato.co.za

Ben Trovato 4 – 6 minutes

Dear Brian Roodt, Owner of Quality Hunting Safaris, Purveyor of Fine Animals,

I read in the Sunday Mirror that you have rhinos and leopards on special. That’s fantastic news. There’s a special on braai packs at my local Spar, but your deal sounds way better. I could do with a juicy leopard kebab right now!

You told the paper that the idea behind the promotion is to lure hunters back to Namibia. Windhoek must be overrun with animals since global travel fell off the back of the bakkie. Can I shoot them from my hotel window? More importantly, is the 20% discount just for overseas hunters or can anyone with a weapon take up your generous offer? I only have a speargun but if I can get close enough it shouldn’t be a problem. I might need help reeling in a buffalo.

You told the Mirror that hunting is vital if Namibian wildlife is to be protected from poachers. This makes perfect sense. I bet animals often run towards you begging to be shot by a decent, God-fearing white man rather than some swarthy heathen from Mozambique.

You also said the animals always have a chance of “escaping the sights” of the shooter. It’s very kind of you to give them that option. And those that can’t dodge a bullet fired from 500m away by a man disguised as a silwerbossie only have to outrun the Land Cruiser until it runs out of fuel. Can’t get fairer than that.

You say on your website that “leopard hunting is largely an exercise in patience and can last as long as 12 days”. That can’t be right. I’m not courting a woman, you know. I’d want to get in, shoot one in the face and be back in the bar for sundowners. Couldn’t you just tie one to a tree for me? Oh, right. You say you practice “ethical hunting”.

Actually, twelve days might not be so bad. I thought it involved walking. “This time is spent quietly waiting inside the pop-up blinds located near the bait drop.” Is the bait ethically sourced? Never mind. If you left the bait right outside the hide, we could just grab him while he’s snout down, bring him back to the lodge and kick him to death around the braai. Would something like that cost extra?

“If you have what it takes,” says your website, “bagging your monster tom will be an experience you won’t soon forget.” By “what it takes”, do you mean a good aim, a high-powered rifle or the requisite sociopathic tendencies? I love that you refer to a leopard as a “monster tom”, as if he’s some huge murderous ginger tomcat with an impressive set of testicles and a penchant for roaming the neighbourhood looking for fights and casual sex.

I do like the look of your rhino special. Even though your prices are only in dollars and euros, I have a good brain and with a little help managed to convert everything into rands. So, R337 000. I don’t know what this comes to after you factor in the 20% discount. I’m not that clever. Do you do returns? I might find my rhino has a grumpy face and then I’d like to shoot another at no extra cost.

I see the fee includes five days’ accommodation in the lodge. Are drinks included? I can easily finish off a quarter of a million rand’s worth of beer in five days and wouldn’t want to be charged for that as well.

Your leopard special is a bit steep at R366 000, but if it comes with chips and a complementary cocktail, I’m in. It would mean travelling to Namibia, though, so maybe not. At least the rhino special is available in South Africa.

My favourite, though, is your combo deal. I’m a big fan. When I go to a seafood restaurant, I always have the hake and prawn combo. Your hippo and croc combo sounds delicious. Do you pair it with Jägermeister? At R242 000, it’s a pretty good deal for these violent water-based creatures, even though a visually impaired toddler would be able to shoot a croc. It’s their own fault for being so lethargic. Would I be responsible for cutting off their heads and shipping them back to my place? I hope not. It looks like messy work.

Hold on, I see you also offer five of the Tiny Ten for R136 000. That’s R27 000 apiece for something small enough to fit into a Woolies bag. Now there’s a good deal! My speargun would be perfectly suited to reeling in a steenbokkie or two. This is definitely more my thing. No heavy lifting. A klipspringer will come right up to you and eat out of your hand. You could strangle him without even spilling your drink.

See you on the killing fields, boet.

https://bentrovato.co.za/leopards-on-special-this-week-get-em-while-theyre-fresh/?fbclid=IwAR2EPxCHLygxGgUTY1kLvqNmv8e6A78U3FTUXW2ieva8JotSPiGvnNk-3o8

Nearly Extinct | Five Rediscovered Birds in the Last Five Years

Bird Calls Black-and-White Warbler, Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock

Dan Lebbin

Perched on the brink of extinction, lost birds are among the most intriguing enigmas in the bird world. Unseen for decades or more, the existence of these birds — known only from outdated photos, drawings, or a museum specimen or two — remains a source of lingering question and doubt.

Sometimes they remain hidden in unsafe or remote areas. In other cases, the birds are overlooked, considered part of a closely related and more widespread species until scientists, in a taxonomic twist, declare them separate species. Whatever the circumstances, these birds are among the rarest of the rare. In the Western Hemisphere, at least two dozen bird species have been classified as “lost.”

Despite needle-in-a-haystack odds, researchers have rediscovered birds five times in the Americas in the last five years. These finds offer deeper insights into the lives of these mysterious birds — and a fresh opportunity to protect them from the brink of extinction.

Blue-eyed Ground Dove by Ciro Albano.

Blue-eyed Ground-Dove. Photo by Ciro Albano

Number One: Blue-eyed Beauty

In Brazil, a combination of skill and luck led to the July 2015 rediscovery of the spectacular Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, which had been lost for 75 years.

This lost bird was known only from a few scattered records in the Brazilian savanna, referred to locally as the cerrado. Over the 75 years, much of the area’s value as bird habitat was lost due to burning and agricultural encroachment, raising further doubts about the ground-dove’s existence.

That changed when a researcher, Rafael Bessa, heard a bird call he did not recognize while conducting a bird survey far to the east of the dove’s suspected range. By recording the call and playing it back, Bessa was able to photograph the bird and confirm its survival.

The rediscovery launched a race to save the remaining population. ABC partner SAVE Brasil successfully led efforts to create a protected area for the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove in February 2018, and birders can now see the dove in person.

More recently, ABC supported a conservation planning workshop orchestrated by SAVE Brasil to determine the next steps for the ground-dove. Proposed actions include additional searches and studying nesting success with camera traps. SAVE Brasil is also considering starting a captive breeding population.

With fewer than 20 birds in separate areas known, the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove’s future is not yet secure, and sustained conservation efforts are still needed to increase its population.

Táchira Antpitta. Photo by Jhonathan Miranda

Táchira Antpitta. Photo by Jhonathan Miranda

Number Two: Song from the Shadows

Roughly 60 years ago, the stubby, short-tailed Táchira Antpitta was last observed within the forests of South America. Then, in 2016, a search team supported by ABC and the Smithsonian Institution and led by Jhonathan Miranda of the Red Siskin Initiative and Provita, located the lost antpitta in Venezuela.

To find this bird, searchers consulted the notes of the collector who discovered the first one. Those descriptions led the party to the original area of discovery.

They knew the easiest way to find the Táchira, or any antpitta, was to listen for its far-carrying song. But no one knew what the Táchira Antpitta sounded like. It was only known from the collector’s notes and a few museum specimens — making the quest to find this elusive bird even more difficult.

In the field, the team heard what sounded like an antpitta, so they got to work, returning to the area again and again until, elated, they took good photographs and made sound recordings – enough evidence to confirm that this bird remains among the living.

ABC first reported the Táchira Antpitta finding in 2017, and a scientific paper containing full details of the rediscovery is in the process of being published.

Now, with the knowledge of the bird’s vocalizations, researcher Jhonathan Miranda and others hope to find more birds elsewhere in Venezuela and across the border in Colombia.

Blue-bearded Helmetcrest. Photo by Sebastian Ballesteros Caro

Blue-bearded Helmetcrest. Photo by Sebastian Ballesteros Caro

Number Three: Mountaintop Marvel

The flashy Blue-bearded Helmetcrest long languished in taxonomic obscurity, lumped with other helmetcrest species. It was last observed in 1946. During much of the time this bird remained lost, it was considered part of another, more widespread species, which meant less attention from conservationists.

Searches conducted in the 1990s and early 2000s failed to encounter the species in what’s now known to be its small range. In 2013, a scientific paper advocated splitting helmetcrest species. Shortly after, in March 2015, ABC partner Fundación ProAves launched a search and rediscovered this bird.

The Blue-bearded Helmetcrest inhabits high-altitude shrublands known as páramo, where it is closely associated with frailejón plants growing on the high peaks of Colombia’s Santa Marta Mountains.

While this area is remote, it is not untouched. Fires set to manage pastures for cattle frequently degrade the habitat. However, since the bird’s rediscovery, a nonprofit organization called the Amazon Conservation Team, has begun working with local indigenous groups, and has initiated an app-based monitoring system to better understand the distribution of this hummingbird.

Despite its rarity, the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest continues to be seen in the Santa Marta Mountains, including, most recently in January 2018, when it was spotted by a visiting birder.

Number Four: The Biggest Lost Bird Re-found

The turkey-sized, curly-crested Belem Curassow inhabits one of the most deforested regions in Brazil’s Amazon region, and had last been spotted in the wild in 1978.

Thirty-eight years later, the curassow suddenly re-appeared, when three were found in a small Brazilian zoo. The following year, in 2017, something even more exciting happened: Scientists working with local indigenous people found a pair of Belem Curassows — known as the Mytunxi in the local Tupi language — in the wild.

Although curassows are highly vulnerable to deforestation and hunting pressure, their populations can recover — even in degraded forests — if provided relief from hunting. And, fortunately, the rediscovered birds are protected within the Gurupi Biological Reserve in northeastern Brazil.

Researchers used sound recordings and photos to document the rediscovery, as reported online in the Brazilian environmental journal ((o))eco. Check out the curassow’s alarm call, which sounds like a high-pitched, space-movie laser.

The Bahama nuthatch is a rediscovered bird

Bahama Nuthatch. Photo by Tom Benson

Number Five: Bahama’s One-Island Wonder

Grand Bahama island was but one island hit by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, but it was the only remaining home for a brown-capped passerine, the Bahama Nuthatch, which was last spotted before the hurricane’s arrival. Subsequent searches of its pineland habitat were unsuccessful, and it looked as though the hurricane might have claimed the species.

That changed in May 2018, when a field crew led by Zeko McKenzie, a researcher at the University of The Bahamas-North, found, photographed, and videotaped the lost nuthatch, documenting the species’ continued survival. McKenzie was part of a search team that was supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the Bahamas National Trust, and others. Another team, led by ornithologists from the University of East Anglia, was looking as well. After a short while, both teams confirmed the presence of the nuthatch.

So far, at least five individuals have been counted, and ABC is considering actions to protect the rediscovered Bahama Nuthatch and, hopefully, find more of these rare birds.

Stresemann's Bristlefront. Photo by Ciro Albano

Stresemann’s Bristlefront. Photo by Ciro Albano

UPDATE: “World’s Rarest Bird” Sighted in Brazil

An individual Stresemann’s Bristlefront, one of the world’s most endangered birds, was observed in Brazil in December 2018, after months of searches had come up empty. Sightings of the bristlefront on December 12th and 14th in fragments of habitat in Bahia, Brazil, have renewed hope that there is still time to save this remarkable, ground-nesting songbird from extinction. With only one currently known individual, this may well be the world’s rarest bird — although researchers do hope to find more individuals in the near future.

Coming Soon: Rediscovered Hummingbirds

If you want to read about other rediscovered birds, check back in the coming weeks: I plan to post another blog focused on hummingbird rediscoveries from prior decades.


Daniel Lebbin is the Vice President of Threatened Species at American Bird Conservancy. He completed his Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell University in 2007 on habitat specialization of Amazonian birds. f you have an interest in searching for any of the species mentioned in this blog, or supporting expeditions to look for them, contact Dan at dlebbin@abcbirds.org.

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