Tag Archives: conservation

International Court victory for whales

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Pic: Paul Hilton/Greenpeace

Japanese whaling in the Antarctic Ocean was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice this afternoon. This is a landmark ruling which will stop hundreds of whales being killed each year in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica in the name of “research”.

Australia had asked the Court to stop Japan’s annual whaling hunting expedition, claiming their programme is not scientific but commercial, because of its large scale. Japan catches about 1,000 whales each year for what it calls scientific research.

In a statement, the court said: “The special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not ‘for purposes of scientific research’ pursuant to [the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling].”

The court’s decision is considered legally binding and Japan has said in the past that it would abide by the court’s ruling. But this isn’t the end of the story. While this may stop Japan’s whaling efforts in the Southern Ocean, campaigners fear that Japan could still try and find new excuses to continue this cull under another guise.

Greenpeace is urging governments to support a huge network of marine reserves that will act as sanctuaries for the diverse, beautiful, weird and wonderful species all over the world, including places like the Antarctic, which is under threat from commercial fishing and climate change.

They are calling on politicians to create a vast network of marine reserves to protect the Antarctic and species like emperor penguins, minke whales and colossal squid.

 

Save Britain’s Barn Owls

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A petition has been launched to save Britain’s Barn Owls, which are dying off in their thousands. The changing climate and a loss in their natural habitat is part of the picture, but these iconic birds are also being killed by powerful rat poisons used on farms across the country.

In 2013 across Britain, the number of Barn Owl nests varied between 45 and 95% lower than normal. Changing climate and habitat loss is part of the picture but Barn Owls are also being killed by powerful rat poisons used on farms across the country. Indeed, the latest scientific research shows that 84% of Britain’s Barn Owls feed on poisoned prey. Some die as a direct result.

The Barn Owl Trust has launched a petition which calls on the Government Minister responsible for the review, Mike Penning, and the Health and Safety Executive to impose stricter controls on these powerful poisons, restricting where and how they are used and throwing a lifeline to our owls.

So please sign to stop the petition and help protect one of the best-loved symbols of Britain’s wildlife.

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Pic: The Barn Owl Trust

Photography awards raise wildlife awareness

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Fox Glance by Samuel Morris

There’s still time to enter the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2014, which aim to raise awareness about British wildlife and celebrate our national heritage.

Winners and commended entrants will have their work showcased in a touring exhibition and stunning book. The awards will be presented by TV presenter Chris Packham, who said: “Anything that raises the public’s awareness of the importance to conserve and protect British wildlife is very close to my heart, and these awards afford a spectacular insight into the habitat and behaviour of our British wildlife.”

Entry is free for young people and the first prize is £5,000. The competition is open until midnight on Saturday, 3 May, and the winners will be announced in September.

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Pic by George Karbus, last year’s overall winner.

Bad weather causing problems for seabirds

Ed Brown Photography

Looks like a lot of seabirds around the coast of Wales are suffering due to the weather we’ve been having, this little guy was taken in Skomer, one of the areas affected and somewhere I hope to visit again later this year.

Atlantic Puffin - Fratercula arctica

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Cutting edge conservation helps wildlife

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The Softrack, a new-state-of-the-art cutting machine, is helping the RSPB to give wildlife a home in Blackloftands, the largest tidal reed bed in England.

The light and agile vehicle that is able to cut reed quickly and efficiently and can easily access the wettest areas at the heart of the reedbed. This means the RSPB is able manage the site more effectively, by creating open areas across the reedbed that benefit a huge range of wildlife including rare bitterns, bearded tits and water voles.

Pete Short, Humber Reserves Manager, says: “In the past we used a tractor with hay mower to cut the reed but the weight of the vehicle meant that it sank in the wetter parts of the reserve. This meant we had to resort to using a heavy-duty strimmer called a brush cutter, which was hard physical work and pretty miserable as we used to get very wet and cold.

“With its caterpillar rollers and lightweight design, the Softrack can get anywhere in the reedbed and cut about four times as much reed as a team of three people using brush cutters. It is saving us a lot of time, money and energy.”

As well as benefitting plants and animals, the RSPB also plans to use the Softrack to harvest reed for use as a low carbon fuel. Funded by landfill tax charity WREN, the Softrack is part of Back to the Future, a five-year RSPB project that will restore wetlands to their former glory and manage them sustainably for wildlife through modern conservation techniques.

Over the past few centuries, large areas of the Humberhead Levels’ important wetlands have been lost due to drainage schemes, which have had a devastating effect on wildlife.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

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Pic: RSPB

More than half a million people are expected to be watching their garden birds the weekend (25-26 January), for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

It’s the biggest wildlife survey in the world and this year participants are being asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens too, including deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

Also new for 2014, is the RSPB’s LIVE bird counter, making it even easier to take part. The counter can be accessed from the RSPB website and doesn’t even need to be downloaded – simply take your laptop, tablet or smartphone to the window, enter the birds you see as you see them, while the clock counts down your hour.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director says: ”Winter has felt more like autumn for many of us and this could have a significant impact on the number of birds in our gardens.

“Birds come into gardens for food when they can’t find it in the wider countryside but if insects and berries continue to be available long into winter, numbers visiting gardens may be down. The Big Garden Birdwatch will be really interesting this year and will be a good indication of just how much the weather affects their behaviour.

“The key thing for the RSPB is that even if you feel you don’t have as many birds in your garden compared to normal, we still desperately need your results. We will be able to compare results to other mild winter years and compare regional trends, so if you don’t see many birds, we still need to know, it’s really useful information.

“The more people that take part, the greater our understanding of the threats and the solutions will be.”

Starlings hit an all time low in the 2013 Birdwatch with their numbers sinking by a further 16 per cent from 2012. Numbers of house sparrows, which are of high conservation concern, dropped by 17 percent in gardens compared to 2012, whilst numbers of bullfinches and dunnocks were down by 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

The data gathered on the mammal and amphibian species will be shared with conservation partners so they can add it to their own records and will be used to help the RSPB tailor its advice on giving nature a home so people can help their wild visitors nest, feed and breed successfully.

To take part, people are asked to spend just one hour at any time of the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local outside space at anyone time. They then have three weeks to submit their results to the RSPB, either online or in the post.

Participants don’t have to actually count the other species like hedgehogs and frogs during the birdwatch hour; just tell the RSPB whether they have ever seen them in their gardens, at any time of year.

Wildlife-friendly gardens worth more to homebuyers

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A new survey has revealed that two-thirds of housebuyers would consider paying more for a wildlife-friendly garden.

The research found that seven out of 10 people in the UK would consider paying extra for a property that has a wildlife-friendly garden. The RSPB and the property website Rightmove asked 1,548 people a series of questions relating to gardens and garden wildlife.

In answer to the question ‘would you pay more for a house with a wildlife friendly garden?’ 14% of people surveyed answered ‘yes, definitely’, another 14% answered ‘probably’ and 39% said ‘maybe’.

Of those surveyed, seven out of 10 (69%) described the area in which they live as either urban or suburban; more than half (56%) have children; and more than nine out of 10 (93%) said they were happy when they saw wildlife in their garden.

The survey was carried out to get an insight into people’s knowledge and interest in UK garden wildlife following the launch of the RSPB’s new campaign, Giving Nature a Home, which aims to help tackle the crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife.

The charity is urging the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces and hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

Sarah Houghton, RSPB campaign manager, said: “Gardens provide a valuable lifeline for things like starlings, toads, hedgehogs and butterflies, so we want to persuade people to give nature a home where they live – it could really help make a difference.”

Gloucestershire badger cull called off

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Great news that the badger cull in Gloucestershire is being abandoned after marksmen failed to kill enough badgers to meet their greatly reduced targets.

The collapse of the trial means that the controversial cull is to end three weeks earlier than planned. Also, according to a document seen by the BBC, the licence will be revoked early by Natural England (NE).

The NE document says: “It is recommended that the daily removal rate of badgers is monitored closely and if the rate falls below projections (such that a significant reduction in badger numbers may not be achieved) then we should consider terminating culling operations (by revoking the licence) as in this scenario there is unlikely to be a net benefit from continued culling.”

The pilot culls were testing whether shooting free-running badgers at night could kill sufficient numbers of the animal to reduce TB in cattle herds and the one in Gloucestershire was tasked with killing 70% of all badgers in the area in a maximum of six weeks.

However,  just 30% were killed in that time, leading to an eight-week extension. A revised target  of 58% was set but shooters have failed to kill enough badgers on any night and several night saw no kills at all. The extended cull was due to end on 18 December.

Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, had wanted to roll out the culls across the country, but will have to wait for the verdict of an independent panel of experts, which will judge whether the culls have been effective, safe and humane.

Mark Jones, Executive Director of Humane Society International-UK said: “I am much relieved the government’s badger cull fiasco is finally over, for the time being at least. We hope the government will now do the decent thing and admit that killing badgers to control TB in cattle is a ludicrous and inhumane idea.”

Dominic Dyer, of Care for the Wild, said a protest against the cull in Bristol today would now turn into a celebration. “We’ve already learned lessons about culling – that it doesn’t work,” he said. “We know that there is another way – an improved cattle management system, in conjunction with volunteer-led badger vaccination.”

British zoos not up to scratch, says research study

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A new report says the British zoo licensing and inspection system is failing to guarantee essential animal welfare standards in zoos.

The study found that only 22 out of 136 zoos were assessed as meeting all the animal welfare standards at consecutive inspections and one or more of the same criteria remained substandard at consecutive inspections in more than one-third of zoos (35%).

The report, carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol and the Born Free Foundation, has also found zoos that were members of a professional association, such as the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquarium, did not significantly out-perform non-members. The researchers found bird parks and farm parks performed the least well.

The Born Free Foundation is calling on the Government-appointed Zoos Expert Committee and relevant licencing authorities ito consider this new evidence and bring forward urgent new measures to ensure that all licensed zoos are meeting their legal and moral obligations to the animals in their care and to the paying public.

Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, said: “British zoos often claim to deliver higher standards than others around the world, but this study adds further weight to our conviction that we should not forget what is happening on our own doorstep.

“It is very concerning to see the range of problems that still afflict British zoos and their animals, and to discover that so many are failing to meet, let alone exceed, minimum animal welfare standards.

“It seems that the zoo licensing and inspection process, and the zoo industry itself, cannot guarantee the welfare of animals in British zoos, and it is time for a radical rethink regarding our approach to zoos in Britain.”

Things to do during wild gardens week

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As it’s Wild About Gardens Week,  here are some practical ways that the RHA recommend to enhance your garden for wildlife, from feeding birds to building ponds. Get into the habit of doing these things and you’ll make a big difference to the wildlife you will find in your garden.

  • Plant a tree – they are important for attracting wildlife because they produce large amounts of nectar at blossom time.  They also attract mini-beasts that make their home in the bark, and birds come hunting them for food.
  • Make a log shelter – dead wood is both home and food for various beetle grubs and many tiny creatures that make a tasty snack for birds, hedgehogs and frogs. You can get logs from  tree surgeons or firewood dealers.
  • Build a bug mansion which will attract insects and other creatures into your garden. You can make the basic framework out of five wooden pallets, and you can fill the gaps with dead wood, straw, hay, dry leaves and holes for toads and bees.
  • Put in a pond – it will attract wildlife with amazing speed, including birds, amphibians, insects and mammals you might never see otherwise.
  • Build a compost café – it will reduce landfill, enrich your soil and attract wildlife. All you need is waste organic material, air and water. Or you should be able to get one from local councils, as many now offer compost bins at reduced prices in a bid to reduce landfill.