Critically endangered Mascarene Petrel discovered at sea and unique image captured of bird with its egg

An expedition to find the Critically Endangered Mascarene Petrel at sea has returned with new information on one of the world’s least-known seabirds. Incredibly they have photographed a female bird where the egg is an obvious protrusion in the contour of her underbody. This is thought to be the first record of any bird photographed in flight with an obvious egg inside the body. The sighting has given new insight into the timing of the breeding season of the species which will help with future searches for its breeding grounds on Réunion Island, the only known place for the species in the world. The search for the elusive petrel is…

First ever illustrated world bird classification published

Lynx Edicíons and BirdLife International have published the first ever Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. The checklist classification uses new criteria and recognises 462 new species which were previously treated as ‘races’ of other forms. The new total of 4,549 non-passerines implies that previous classifications have undersold avian diversity at the species level by as much as 10%. As a result today the world has 46 ‘new’ species of parrot, 36 ‘new’ hummingbirds and 26 ‘new’ owls. The work uses new criteria for determining which taxa qualify as species. These criteria are intended to create a level playing field, by which all bird species can be assessed…

Elephant population triples in Serengeti Maasa Mari – are they fleeing poachers?

Are elephants fleeing Kenya for the relative safety of Tanzania in the Serengeti? That is the question being posed as a new survey released this week shows that elephant numbers in the Tanzania sector of the vast eco-system have tripled in just 28 years. The areal survey was conducted by Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and was targeting the populations of elephants and buffaloes in the world’s largest ecosystem. The result was surprising with elephant populations in some areas of the Serengeti tripling in number since the last large-scale survey was undertaken in 1986. In the Serengeti-Mara region there was…

British turtles are booming

It may take more than a day trip to the coast to see the booming turtle population but the numbers of green turtles on British dependency Ascension Island are booming. The latest survey shows that turtle numbers on the main beaches now total 24,000 nests – an increase of 500% since records began in the 1970’s The increase means that the beaches around the Ascension Island are now the second largest breeding population in the Atlantic Ocean. The future could be even brighter for the turtles and other wildlife as the governor signed in to existence 7 new nature reserves yesterday (28th July 2014) which included 3 main green turtle…

Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem loses 1500 elephants in 3 years

The provisional results of the aerial survey of elephants in the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem released today show that there is an elephant population of about 11,000.  That is a reduction of about 1,500 on the population from the last survey about 3 years ago. Considering the surge in global elephant poaching the ecosystem is currently holding up well. Mr Ben Kavu, the KWS Deputy Director in charge of Devolution and Community Wildlife Service, this morning announced the provisional results at census tallying centre at Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) press release today they believe the survey to show that elephant numbers in the ecosystem are…

European bat populations surge

Bat populations in Europe have surged according to a new study recently released. Between 1993 and 2011 bat numbers increased by 42% according to the European Environment Agency (EEA) survey. New conservation treaties and actions have started to have the desired effect as bat populations start to rebound. “It is extremely encouraging to see bat populations increasing after massive historic declines,” EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said. “It suggests that targeted conservation policies over the last years have been successful.” “But many bat species are still endangered, so preserving their habitats is still an important priority,” he added. “Monitoring bats also helps understand changes in wider ecosystems, including climate change, as…

A quarter of all ray and shark species heading for extinction

A new survey has revealed the impact of over-fishing on sharks and rays. While local surveys have regularly been undertaken the latest one was the first to look at it from a global perspective. The results indicate a quarter of all shark and ray species are heading to extinction in the next few decades and just a third of species are considered safe from over-fishing. The survey was conducted by The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Shark Specialist Group (SSG), co-chaired by Nick Dulvy, a Simon Fraser University (SFU) Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation in British Columbia. “We now know that many species of sharks…

UK Garden wildlife health watch launches

  Britain’s largest survey of the health of garden wildlife has begun today and lead partners are calling for people to report on the condition of their garden wildlife at the web site of the Garden Wildlife Health project. The aim of the project is to  gain a better understanding of the diseases that threaten native wildlife. The Garden Wildlife Health project is being run by a partnership of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO),  Froglife and Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB). The survey is aimed at the full spectrum of wildlife that is regularly seen in people’s gardens including mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.…

Microsoft billionaire to fund Pan African elephant survey

One of the founders of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has expressed his grave concern for the fate of Africa’s elephants by adding his financial weight to their protection. He announced today [Dec 4] that his family trust will fund an Africa-wide survey to establish how many elephants remain. This follows on an agreement by the Clinton Foundation to provide millions of dollars for anti-poaching programmes in Africa and President Obama’s decision to have the US stockpile of illegal ivory crushed so it cannot be reused. These moves reflect world-wide concern over the future of elephants, which are presently being poached at the rate of about one every 15 minutes. Estimates of…

Ugandan national park loses nearly 60% of lions in 10 years

A recent wildlife survey has highlighted that lions in some of Uganda’s conservation areas are dropping in number. In some areas the losses could be as great as 60% over the last 10 years. It is estimated that just 408 lions remain in the 3 top strongholds for lions in the country. “African lions are a vital component of these ecosystems,” said WCS conservationist Edward Okot Omoya, the lead author of the study. “They play an important role in disease control of antelopes and buffalo by killing the sick animals.” The survey was carried out by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of St Andrews. The researchers used a ‘lure count’…

Tigers of Panna survived the poachers

It was devastating news in 2009 after a tiger census of Panna Tiger Reserve. It was declared that there were no tigers and it was suspected that they had all been killed by poachers. New evidence suggests that at least 1 tiger survived the poachers. After the census plans were put in place to repopulate the reserve with trans-located tigers. A recent DNA survey of tiger cubs in the park to assess genetic diversity and parenthood have revealed that 4 tigers cubs have not been fathered by introduced tigers but may have been fathered by one of the original male tigers from before 2009. “It was (found) that four cubs were not sired…

Take part in a deep ocean survey

The latest citizen science crowd-sourcing project has been launched. The Plankton Portal aims to let interested volunteers take part in a deep ocean survey of the base of the food chain in the marine environment. While not the easiest of crowd-sourcing surveys it is certainly one of the most fun to do. Participants need to be able to measure individual plankton and identify them from their shape. The technical process of measuring and identifying is enough but distortions of the actual plankton can make identification difficult and it’s amazing how many plankton you just don’t see until you get a bit of experience. Fortunately it does not matter if you make a mis-identification…

Humpback whale population doubles in 8 years

A recent survey of humpback whales off the coast of British Columbia has revealed some good news. Between 2004 and 2011 the population has doubled with an estimated 2011 population of 137 whales. The survey was undertaken by researchers from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews and colleagues from other institutions. The study was undertaken in the Gil Island region. Researchers estimated abundance of Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) using photo-identification surveillance of identifiable adults. They found that the number of humpback whales in the region increased each year, and doubled from 2004 to 2011, resulting in a total of 137 whales in 2011. The…

Protecting 17% of land surface could conserve 67% of plant species

One of the goals of the  Convention on Biological Diversity 2010 is to ensure that at least 60% of plant species are conserved for future generations and that 17% of the planet’s land surface is protected. Careful consideration of where that 17% is placed could mean that 67% of plant species are conserved. Researchers from Duke, North Carolina State University and Microsoft Research used computer algorithms to identify the smallest set of regions worldwide that could contain the largest numbers of plant species. The results have now been published in Science journal. “Our analysis shows that two of the most ambitious goals set forth by the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity — to…

National Tiger census set for October

A new national tiger census for India is due to begin in October.  Despite there having been 225 known tiger deaths since the last national census in 2010 hopes are high that numbers will have increased. Staff training for the nationwide tiger survey is expected to begin next month and it is thought that 40,000 forest department staff from the states involved will be needed to complete the task. The census is to be run by the Wildlife Institute of India. All 42 tiger reserves in India will be examined for signs of tigers and their numbers. The survey will also be carried out in other wildlife reserves where there has been evidence…

Nuisance noise becomes important whale study

Noise from earthquake sensors is being used to study the fin whale. The fin whale is one of the least studied and understood of the whales species and the ability to use earthquake sensors to track the whales could open up a small window to their mysterious world. The fin whale makes calls in the 17 to 35 vibrations per second range and this overlaps the frequencies that earthquake sensors record at.  Ten years ago a network of earthquake monitors was put in place to study the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the Washington coast. In amongst the earthquake data was ‘nuisance noise’ caused b y the fin whale calls.…

Natural England boosts citizen science wildlife studies

Natural England has joined with the Field Studies Council (FSC) to try and address a rising shortage of volunteer wildlife surveyors. With support from Defra’s Fund for Biodiversity in the Voluntary Sector, FSC and Natural England have created ‘Biodiversity Fellows’, a new programme to train and retain wildlife recorders as volunteer experts. The new scheme has been been established to help people who want to take part on the on-going monitoring of the environment but who may feel that they are lacking the specialist skills to monitor and record some species of wildlife.  While many ‘amateur’ naturalists may be comfortable with identifying and recording species of birds and mammals they may…

A jaguar becomes one in a million

A jaguar becomes one in a million

Scientists from the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network have released a camera trap photo of a jaguar as they pass the milestone of 1 million images of wildlife captured as part of their research. The animal to make the landmark image was a jaguar in the Manu National Park, Peru. TEAM is a  global partnership that monitors change in tropical forest ecosystems, biomass, rainfall, and species diversity. They operate a vast netowrk of camera traps in forests to help them monitor the health of tropical ecosystems. The researchers uses the information from camera traps to understand the current status of  wildlife populations and how they cope with a…

A new message in a bottle

Sending a message in a bottle is a bit of a folklore for getting rescued from deserted islands but now marine scientists could use a simple bottle of sea water to determine what’s living locally. By using the latest DNA techniques a half litre of sea water can reveal the species of fish and whales living in a locale. The new technique has been pioneered by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and could be used for both marine conservation and surveying and also fisheries management. “The new DNA-method means that we can keep better track of life beneath the surface of the oceans around the world, and better monitor…

New real time bird diversity monitoring now possible

Bird surveys can be labour extensive and often need willing volunteers who are not just prepared to sit it out for a few hours but are also skilled enough to recognise the birds or their bird songs. This means trying to keep and up to date record of local bird diversity and health can be time-consuming and expensive. A team of researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) may have developed an automated solution to bird surveys which could lead to software that enables a near real-time monitoring of populations to happen. [pullquote]Now we can tell down to the second when a bird arrives, leaves, when and where it’s choosing to nest,…